A couple of weeks ago I posted about the Wii Head Tracking hack that uses the Nintendo Wii and $10 to create a prototype 3D display that would normally costs $10,000’s. Mr Lee was also responsible for this amazing demo of foldable displays, also using the Wii.
Johnny Lee recently gave a demonstration at the future technology TED conference. In it demonstrates an interactive whiteboard created using the Wii. This sort of technology normally costs $3000 dollars and is outside the price range of most schools. With Mr Lee’s hack, they can have it for a $200, and many schools are doing it. His software has been downloaded half a million times and he has received all sorts of feedback from teachers and pupils.
Watch the video, its five minutes of a smart man showing off world-changing technology in a way that anyone can understand.
The same guy who designed the Wii Head Tracking prototype I just posted about has also done some incredible work on foldable displays. All the examples in the video are done with a heavily hacked Wii. We are used to the rapid change in computers and gadgets but I think the technologies that are just around the corner will have a massive effect on how we use computers, mobile phones, mp3 players and everything electronic.
The Wii is showing great potential for physical and mental skills training. The nature of the Wii’s controls plus the add-ons like Wii Fit‘s balance board mean its can be used to track and sense all sorts of movements and actions. Just to show the potential of the Wii, a grad student called Johnny Chung Lee has come up with a way to track your head movements. He’s used this create a prototype virtual reality system which you can see in the video below (skip to 2:45 if you are not interested in the technical stuff).
Virtual reality may be great for games but from neurological training point of view its not that interesting. Its the other potential uses for the head tracker that interests me. A Wii head tracking combine with the balance board allows the Wii to track many of the movements used in the Dore system and other movement based approaches to dyslexia and ADHD. A computerised system will have an advantage over the traditional approaches as it can give feedback on how well the exercise is being done and control its difficulty to reflect the skills of the user.
A couple of days ago I posted about a theoretical iLearn device based on iPhone technology. The main point being that cheap, powerful technology can be used to teach small children basic skills such as rhythm. Today a firm called Emotiv Systems have announced a cheap ($300 is cheap for this technology) headset that monitors brain activity for controlling games.
Biofeedback using devices that monitor brain activity has been tried to treat a number of neurological problems including ADHD. Play Attention are the market leaders in this area with their $1700 dollar system. Good scientific research in this area is thin on the ground (see this for more detail) but the idea is sound in principal. If you can learn to clam your mind, the problems of impulsiveness and hyperactivity should be reduced.
If there is some way combine Emotiv’s headset with the electronic balance board in Wii Fit then you have the basis of a very effective brain and body training system. With well designed games and a gradual progression from easy to hard, such a system should be able teach children to calm their minds and control their bodies at the same time. This would bring the same improvement in control as, say, learning a martial art to a high level but in a form that is easier to learn, with better feedback and generally more convenient. For the company that gets this right, there is a multi-billion dollar market to be taken from the drug firms.
Source: Brain control headset for gamers
Looking at Myomancy’s logs I can see that quite a few people are coming here searching for information on the Nintendo Wii and autism. So far Myomancy has only incidentally connected the two subjects. However it seems that a lot parents are ahead of me and wish to know whether the Wii is suitable for autistic children.
The difficultly in answering this question is that autism covers a very wide range of problems. From high function autistics to adults who still haven’t become fully toilet trained. With such a wide range of abilities, one answer cannot fit all cases. However at least one therapist is using a Wii in the therapy for an autistic boy.
Using the Wii is straightforward and may be more natural to a child than a traditional console because a lot of games are played by moving the whole arm rather than pressing small buttons. Selecting the right game is key as there is a wide range in their complexity. Games aimed at younger children are more likely to suit an autistic child as they will expect a lower level of hand/eye coordination. I’ve added a section to the Myomancy Store specifically for Wii games and Autism featuring games aimed at younger children.
I haven’t tried any of the games in the store and I don’t have a great deal of personal experience one-on-one with autistic children so it is very hard for me to give good advice. So I ask everyone who finds this page to comment below on your experience with the Wii and autism. Has your autistic child had the chance to play with a Wii? What game was it and how did they cope with it? If you’ve not yet tried a Wii, what questions would you like answering? With luck we can build up a guide to parents of autistic children and the Nintendo Wii.
Your children are nagging you to buy a Nintendo Wii. They claim it will be good for them. Unlike the X-Box 360 or Playstation 3, the Wii means exercise and movement and not sitting around pushing buttons. But how much exercise can you get from playing Wii Sports? Will it help burn those calories?
Fear not, your questions are now answered thanks to research published in the British Medical Journal this month. In a small study of just eleven children, researchers examined the calories burnt playing Wii Sports (Bowling, Tennis and Boxing) and Project Gotham Racing 3 on the X-Box 360. Unsurprisingly the children used more energy playing on the Wii.
Wii Sorts Bowling
Wii Sorts Tennis
Wii Sorts Boxing
X-Box Project Gotham Racing 3
( KiloJoules per Kilogram per Minute)
As can be seen from the results, playing Wii Sports requires more energy than playing on a traditional games console. But, and its a big but, the intensity of the exercise when playing on the Wii is not high enough to contribute towards the recommended daily amount of exercise in children. The Wii is not a replacement for playing real sports.
Note: This was a small study on children around 14 years old and its results should be treated with caution. It also only looked at specific Wii Sport activities. Other Wii games may burn more or less energy and this study is no guide as to how many calories Wii Fit will burn.
Comparison of energy expenditure in adolescents when playing new generation and sedentary computer games: cross sectional study
The GZ PC-Sport falls into the same class of exercise+gaming as the Wii Fit. However rather than being a game by its self, it is a stepping machine that plugs into your PC, Wii, XBox 360 or PS3 and if you don’t keep up a regular rhythm your PC will stop responding. This is a great way to exercise whilst doing something enjoyable.
Though it is only a stepping machine, it does also have some cerebellum training aspects to it. An undeveloped cerebellum struggles to move the limbs independently of each other. Playing any game using the GZ PC-Sport and you will have to move fingers and hands to move the games and the legs to work the stepper. This is harder than is sounds, much like patting your head and rubbing your stomach at the same time. Combined with the Wii and Wii Sports where you have to move your arms and this becomes another weapon in the arsenal for developing your cerebellum.
The Corpus Callosum is a large structure in the brain that connects the two hemispheres. Its roll is to pass information from the left hemisphere to the right and vice versa. This is a vital as the two hemispheres perform different tasks and need to communicate efficiently. The Corpus Callosum has been linked by scientists to dyslexia and ADHD for a long time. They theorize that the problems in these conditions may be caused by insufficient information passing between the two halves of the brain.
Plenty of research has been done on the size of the Corpus Callosum in dyslexics and in children with ADHD and the results have generally found a correlation. Its seems that the anterior region of the Corpus Callosum was significantly smaller in the dyslexic children. However the results are not clear cut with at least one study has found no difference in dyslexic versus non-dyslexic children and another study on adult, male dyslexics found areas of the Corpus Callosum were larger that normal.
These variation in results may have several causes. How the study defines dyslexia when selecting there sample population may make an impact. The sophistication of the equipment used is important. Some of these studies date back to the early 1990’s when fMRI technology was still new so the ability to accurately measure the Corpus Callosum may of been poorer. Our knowledge of the brains structure has also improved and later studies have tended to focus on specific areas of the Corpus Callosum, partially areas linked to the processing of sounds. However, with a lot of maybes and provisos it does look like the Corpus Callosum in dyslexic and ADHD children is subtly different.
Being able to efficiently pass information from one half of the brain to the other is vital. Much like a road between to busy cities. The better the road, the more information, wealth and trade will flow between the cities. So in dyslexic and ADHD children this road may be poor and restricting vital traffic. But there is hope that this roadway can be improved.
Its has been found that the Corpus Callosum was larger in professional musicians than in non-musicians. Playing instruments involves a lot of cross hemisphere processing to keep both hand’s movements in time with each other. This suggest that by regular practice the Corpus Callosum can be strengthen. The Dore Program, Interactive Metronome and primitive reflex based treatments such as INPP all involve cross-lateral movements designed to train this area of the brain. Other activities may also help. Such as computer games like Wii Drums and some aspects of Wii Fit may also help.
If you would like to try out your Corpus Callosum, have a look at this test on Mind Hacks. You will need a friend to help you but otherwise it is an extremely simple demonstration of what the Corpus Callosum does.
Dyslexia and corpus callosum morphology
Magnetic resonance imaging of the corpus callosum in developmental dyslexia
Corpus callosum morphology, as measured with MRI, in dyslexic men
Developmental Dyslexia: Re-Evaluation of the Corpus callosum in Male Adults
Less developed corpus callosum in dyslexic subjects—a structural MRI study
Increased corpus callosum size in musicians
More Videos on the Wii Fit
GameTrailers.com have a host of Wii Fit videos to watch. The downside is that most of them are in Japanese. This isn’t much of a problem as you can learn practically everything just by watching them play the game. The video below shows how to set up your account on the Wii as it weighs you and calculates your Body Mass Index. It then demonstrates the some of the mini-games including the snow boarding.
The video also shows how the Wii Fit can be serious fitness tool. It shows the yoga, the push ups, jogging and the step-aerobics. You also see a how the Wii tracks your fitness levels, showing graphs of your BMI and how you and your family can compare graphs.
There are loads more videos on the Wii Fit to see. In fact over twenty. This is the big list of Wii Videos, mostly TV adverts. One seems to demonstrate a meditation mode were you sit on the Wii fitness board. Other, longer videos focus on the physical exercises and give a good insight into how the Wii monitors what you are doing and gives you feed back. In the video on jogging it shows that you place the Wii Remote into your pocket and the Wii tracks its movements in the same way a pedometer works. In other videos you can see how both the Wii controllers are combined with the balance board for boxing game.
Doing the post on the Wii Drums remindered me of a book I wanted to write about. Its 4-Way Coordination: A Method Book for the Development of Complete Independence on the Drum Set . I forget how I found it but it immediately got my attention as a way of learning cross-lateral and limb-independent movements. Drummers need to be able to use each of their four limbs independently from each other and this takes a lot of time to learn. Education problems such as dyslexia and ADHD are linked to a poorly developed cerebellum, the part of the brain that controls the limbs, and retained primitive reflexes which restrict limb movements. Training regimes such as the Dore Programme teach children (and adults like myself) how to use their bodies. If this book has a good training method for limb independence that doesn’t focus on drumming it could be and effective resource of parents.
Here is what one of its reviews says:
You don’t need a drumset to work it — all you need are hands and feet to
get better. the “score” is set out in various patterns of LH,RH, LF, RF
(left hand, right hand, left foot, right foot). So if you can’t get
enough of drumming, take this on the road with you for vacations, work
trips, whatever and work on breaking the mold. The floor, your knees
and any flat surface in front of you will do for practice.
This is one of the few drum books you can literally practice from
anywhere at anytime with nothing but the book and you.
I’ve ordered a copy and will be reviewing it soon.