Balance & Coordination, Rhythm Games, Wii Fit

A while ago I mentioned Audiosurf, in an article called Rhythm Games Are Taking Over The World

One of the award winning games is Audiosurf. Its not strictly a rhythm game but it music is an integral part of the game play. Its a simple premise, steer a spacecraft down a twisting, turning track collecting some coloured blocks whilst avoiding others. The twist is that the race track is generated from the music you choose to play from your MP3 collection. So you can have a fast and furious race course by selecting some thumping guitar or a slow, easy route if you choose a crooner like Frank Sinatra. What’s more, every time you race, the track and your score is uploaded to a server on the net and you can compare your music and your scores with others around the world.

I’ve have also mentioned the Wii Balance Board a few times, most recently in the article The Future of Cerebellum Training

However, the Wii Fit balance board can also be made work with PC’s and Macs. At the moment the software is a hack, a quick & dirty solution, but over the next few months these will stabilize and become easier to work with. Now, any one with a bit of programming skills and a good knowledge of cerebellum training could create a great dyslexia / ADHD orientated training program. One that personalises the training plan every time it is used, not once every six weeks.

Now I get to mention these two great ideas in one go with Bodysurf. Using GlovePie as an interface, the balance board is connected to a PC and used to play Audiosurf. You can see it in action on this video clip.

For a different hack of the Wii balance board, check out this video of German researchers using it to surf over the word using Google Earth.

ADD / ADHD, ADD / ADHD Diagnosis, ADD / ADHD Medication, ADD / ADHD Treatment, Digital Fitness, Dore Achievement Centres, Dyslexia, Dyslexia Testing & Diagnosis, Dyslexia Treatment, Dyspraxia, Medication, Memory, Music, Nintendo DS, Nintendo Wii, Rhythm Games, Wii Fit

One of the reasons I started this blog was because I was interested in creating a cerebellum training program that was quicker, more effective than Dore. Myomancy was my notebook of interesting technology and relevant science. Over the years I’ve examined many different approaches to the treatment of dyslexia and ADHD. Some were simply nonsense, others had promise but were lacking the scientific, technological or business resources to make them viable. Some lacked the ethical honesty necessary when selling products to parents desperately worried about their children.

Slowly overtime I refined my ideas about how cerebellum training should work and how a independent company without much in the way financial resources could develop and sell such a product in an ethical manner. One main stumbling block has been the cost and availability of the technology necessary to track a user’s limb movements and balance. So I’ve been watching the progress of the Wii and latterly the Wii Fit with interest. The technology needed for cerebellum training was finally cheaply and readily available. What’s more many people already own it.

Originally I intended to make an announcement after slowly develop a proof of concept over the next few months but with the collapse of Dore and the shadow that will cast over the cerebellum training field, I’ve decided to move my plans forward. So I’m pleased to announced the creation of WyyMi, a project to create a free, open-source, open-science cerebellum training program.

What is WyyMi?
WyyMi is a project to develop a cerebellum training program to help people with dyslexia, ADHD, dyspraxia and similar educational problems.

Project Goals
To develop a system that cost nothing (or as close to nothing as possible) to use; to do it using open-source software; and to make freely available as much scientific evidence on its effectiveness as possible.

How Will It Work?
The idea is to use cheap and easily available computer hardware that can monitor and assess gross motor movements and balance. At the moment the Wii Remote and Wii Fit Balance Board seem the best candidates but they need to be adapted to work on PCs and Macs because the Wii console itself is difficult to develop for.

Using this hardware and software on the website, users will be perform a series of exercises. The amount of time spent training and the accuracy of the user’s movement will be logged on the server so that the user can track their progress and so the server can inform the user which exercises to do next. This data will also be aggregated, made anonymous and published so that it can be analyzed by any interested 3rd party. Ideally, symptom specific measures (e.g. spelling tests) will also be included so that the training programs effectiveness in treating educational problems can be measured.

Other than a broad statement of goals and the planned route for achieving them, there is nothing else on site at the moment. Progress is likely to slow, not least because I am working on another project at the moment as well maintaining my existing portfolio of web sites. If you wish to help in anyway, please see the announcement for ways you can contribute, not matter what your skills are.

Myomancy will be continuing to report on anything and everything I think is relevant to dyslexia, ADHD and autism. Obviously as I am planning to create my own training program, that might create a conflict of interest when discussing other people’s approach. I will try and be as unbiased as possible and make my conflict of interest clear.

Nintendo Wii, Wii Fit

As a follow up The Future of Cerebellum Training here some links on hacking the Wii, the Wiimote and the Wii balance board. These are mostly for my own interest so feel free to ignore them.

Wiimote + Flash (using GlovePie) video; Wiiflash – the PC only way of integrating the Wiimote into Flash applications; video of someone using the balance board and PC to surf the net; WiiUse is a C library for interfacing with Wiimotes; GlovePie, another way of interfacing; MoteDaemon is a Flash interface for OSX; DarwiinRemote, another interface for the Mac.

ADD / ADHD Treatment, Digital Fitness, Dore Achievement Centres, Dyslexia Treatment, Nintendo Wii, Wii Fit

With the financial collapse of Dore in Australia, it is inevitable that questions will be because its ask about the long-term future of cerebellum training. The financial problems are Dore will cast a shadow over this approach to dyslexia and ADHD but I don’t believe it will kill it. Why? Partly because it works for some people but mostly because Dore is irrelevant to the future.

One of Dore’s key selling points was a personalised program based on the six weekly check-ups using their hi-tech balance machine. However that advantage has gone or will be gone in the next few months. The worldwide release of the Wii Fit Balance Board put a hi-tect balance machine in people’s living rooms for £69.99.

The balance board is not any use without some software and the Wii Fit software that comes with it, whilst good for general balance training, is nowhere near a replacement for Dore. Unfortunately developing software for a console like the Wii is expensive because of licensing issues and the special tools need to write the software. So its unlikely any company involved in cerebellum training will have enough money to pull it off.

However, the Wii Fit balance board can also be made work with PC’s and Macs. At the moment the software is a hack, a quick & dirty solution, but over the next few months these will stabilize and become easier to work with. Now, any one with a bit of programming skills and a good knowledge of cerebellum training could create a great dyslexia / ADHD orientated training program. One that personalises the training plan every time it is used, not once every six weeks.

Of course, the any training program would need to be tested and validated. Once again, technology can allow the little guy to do this on a budget. Anyone using the training system can sign-up to be part of the trial. Via the internet they can automatically log their usage and fill out regular questionnaires on symptoms or take online reading tests. All this data can then be anonymised and placed online so that anyone, pro or anti cerebellum, can analyse that data. Such a study would have many problems, not least the self-reporting aspect of it, but if the training works there should be a strong signal in the data to warrant more detailed studies.

Digital Fitness, Nintendo Wii, Wii Fit

Nintendo has offically announced that the Wii Fit will be launched on May 19th for $89.99. That’s $10 more and one day earlier than we predicted. For those of you living in New York, from April 18 through 20,

“[The] first 1,000 consumers who place a $5 deposit for Wii Fit at the Nintendo World store in Rockefeller Plaza will receive a limited edition Wii Fit T-shirt featuring the image and reproduced autograph of legendary Nintendo video game designer Shigeru Miyamoto.”

With the announcement of the Wii Fit release date, Amazon have started to take pre-orders. Interestingly, Amazon claim a release date of the 21st May but the press release says “Available at Nintendo World store starting on May 19”. Its possible it will be in the Nintendo store a couple of days before its general release.

The Wii Fit has sold 1.4 million copies in Japan and demand is expected to be strong when its released in the states. Amazon have even placed a limit on the number you can buy:

“As you may know, the Nintendo Wii Fit is in great demand, and there are shortages of this product across the U.S. In an effort to provide as many customers as possible with the opportunity to purchase a Wii Fit, we are limiting the total number of Wii Fits that can be purchased. As a result, each household may only purchase up to 3 Nintendo Wii Fit units total.”

For us Europeans, the Wii Fit release date is that much closer. The UK release date is the 25th April for £69.99. Looking at the price, it seems that UK and European customers are once again getting screwed. With an exchange rate of $2 = £1 the US price of $89.99 looks great values compared to the UK price of £69.99.

In Australia, the Wii Fit release date will be the 8th May.

ADD / ADHD Treatment, Digital Fitness, Dore Achievement Centres, Dore Sport, Dyslexia Treatment, Nintendo Wii, Wii Fit

One of the short comings of the Dore program and all movement based treatments is the low level of feedback you get when doing the exercises. Without someone watching you and checking the instructions for an exercise, its very hard to tell if you are doing them correctly. This is a major problem for people who cannot tell left hand from right and could easy spend ten minutes doing an exercise without noticing they are doing it completely wrong. Of course having someone to help is ideal but for adults doing the course that isn’t always possible and for children, it demands a great deal of time from other members of the family.

Its partly because of this problem that I’m interested in how technology can help deliver training programs like Dore. Computers or games consoles are the perfect way to monitor the exercises and provide feedback so that the exercisers knows they are doing it correctly. This reduces wasted time, improves the rate of progress and most importantly, reduces the demand on the rest of the family. This all adds up to a more effective treatment with a lower drop-out rate.

One technological development that has a lot promise is the slowly emerging 3D cameras. These are not strictly speaking 3D cameras, instead they use a variety of methods to identify depth and distance. This information is then passed back to the computer which can use it to workout if objects are moving towards it or away from it. Something that is very hard to do with a traditional camera.

The best demonstration of this technology I can find is this Second Life demonstration. Second Life (SL) is a virtual reality world shared by many thousands of people. Using a mouse and keyboard the players moves their avatar through the world but in this demo, a 3D camera is used to track the players movements.

It is not hard to make the leap from this demonstration to a computer program that tracks how well the person does does an exercise. We are already seeing this sort of approach in Wii Fit. More demonstrations of the technology are available from the makers of the camera. Here, an on-screen avatar mimics the movement of a real person and in this one, the player is throwing and catching a virtual ball. More are available from 3DVSystems.

ADD / ADHD, ADD / ADHD Treatment, Digital Fitness, Dore Achievement Centres, Dyslexia, Nintendo Wii, Wii Fit

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.

ADD / ADHD, ADD / ADHD Treatment, Digital Fitness, Nintendo Wii, Rhythm Games, Wii Fit

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

Wii Fit

Wii Fit, the balance and exercise system that may have advantages for people with learning difficulties, will be launched in the US on the 19th May. Unusually, the UK and Europe release date has been set earlier, for the 25th April.

Digital Fitness, Nintendo DS, Wii Fit

kawashima

Nintendo’s Dr Kawashima’s Brain Training (call Brain Age: Train Your Brain in Minutes a Day in the USA) has been a huge hit in Japan, the US and around the world. But who is Dr Kawashima?

Dr Kawashima, or to give him his proper title, Professor Kawashima, is a Japanese neuroscientist who has served in Japan’s National Council, advising on language and cultural issues. His neurological work has focused on brain imaging with fMRI and how to use what has been learnt from imaging to help children learn, old people retain their mental skills and patients regain them.

Based on his work, in 2003 Dr Kawashima released Train Your Brain: 60 Days to a Better Brain in Japan and it was a huge best seller. This attracted the attention of Nintendo who were looking for ideas that would appeal to people outside the normal hardcore gamers. They wanted to be able sell their new handheld to a wide range of different people. Legend has it that Satoru Iwata, the president of Nintendo, arranged a meeting with Kawashima. Both their schedules were very busy and the only time they could get together was for an hour on the day that the Nintendo DS was launched. This hour long meeting turned into a three hour brainstorming session after which a team of developers were given 90 days to develop a prototype.

There is no doubt that Brain Training’s success has pushed Nintendo into other products that appeal to those who want to do more that just play games. The time and money invested in Wii Fit is clear example. With its new digital balance board controller and range of activities from jogging and snowboard through to meditation it has broad appeal as both a brain and body trainer.

The image accompanying this post will be recognizable to players of Dr Kawashima’s Brain Age. Regularly through the program he gives messages of support and encouragement. This doctored version comes from Add Letters.