The most interesting interface for Wii?

I’ve been looking at the recent Wii interfaces, I’ve played Guitar Hero III and I’m getting to grips with the guitar interface  (I’m only getting booed off stage occasionally now!). I’ve also tried Mario v Sonic at the Olympics, which uses the standard controller but in new ways. I’ve looked at Wii Fit, which uses the Wii balance board and most recently I’ve seen that there’s a pack with a racket, golf club etc (albeit they’re just adaptations of the standard controller). Now I’m asking myself which is better – Is it better to have an interface that mimics exactly the thing you’re trying to do or is it better to have something that’s more versatile but limited in terms of not being exactly right?

In terms of educational quality for example the Guitar Hero is disappointing in that you can’t actually do the chord sequences like you can on a real guitar (I can’t play by the way but my dad could). It also doesn’t allow you to be free to play in the way other electronic guitar simulators do. It isn’t sensitive to pressure either. All of these things affect it’s ability to be realistic….and yet…it’s very addictive, people who play guitar say it has some merits (teaching timing etc.) and when I demonstrated it at a recent “learn about fair” at work the people who played it best by far are those that actually knew how to play the guitar in ‘real’ life.

So my challenge now is to find out if the better tool is one very specialised to one purpose (and can such a unique interface ever be produced and would people buy it?) or is it preferable to admit that any interface is limited and that the most flexible interfaces are ones where we can use our imagination to mimic the event without having to exactly match it (for example riding a bull in Wii Sports, where you mimic the actions without having to hold a bulls horns!).

The challenge for me is to find out where you can draw the line, the things with Wii mote would make your hair curl and the potential is massive to do something much more interesting by mixing this with something like a 3D projector so you could for example actually play in the football match played out in 3 D in your living room and be interacting with the holograms. Is this worth exploration or should I just go outside and play footy with the kids, yes I guess I should but these questions will still be here when I get back!

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About willwoods
I'm Head of Learning and Teaching Technologies in the Institute of Educational Technology at the Open University.

4 Responses to The most interesting interface for Wii?

  1. Jo Iacovides says:

    With respect to what type of interface is better, I guess the answer depends partly on why you want to use it in the first place. This isn’t for the Wii but it is a completely different approach that manages to avoid the issue of physical interaction:

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/7254078.stm#graphic

    The fact it can recognise emotions seems pretty interesting but I’m not sure I do want to play games just sitting down and thinking about the actions I want to carry out… I have difficulty with the idea that I wouldn’t have any direct physical input – maybe it would feel too much like daydreaming? And in terms of what makes a better interface, I’m not even sure I do know what the brain control headset would be ‘right’ for.

  2. Martin says:

    The mapping across from the real world is interesting. For instance in Wii Sports I immediately adopted boxer stance for boxing. My daughter, who has never seen boxing, just waved the controls about wildly and beat me up every time. I wondered at the time whether it should be more lifelike or whether it’s fun to be different. The latter I think. My golf playing friends are infuriated at the unlifelike way it handles golf in Sports (Tiger Woods is better), but I don’t play golf so like it for what it is.
    I’m rubbish at Guitar Hero btw because I have no sense of rhythm so can’t follow a beat.

  3. willwoods says:

    Hi Jo,
    Yes I’ve seen a prototype of this headset demoed at one of the gaming shows and it’s a little scarey. It also seems like people have to almost learn how to think correctly in order to manipulate it, maybe I’ve got that wrong but there was a fair amount of concentration involved and it didn’t always work correctly!

    I do like a pysical artifact to hold when I’m playing and it not only represents a tool which allows me to interface with the environment but can also serve to enhance the experience in my opinion.

  4. willwoods says:

    Hi Martin,
    I must go and post on your site by the way, I keep seeing interesting stuff and I’ve got about ten questions to put to you so expect to see a rush of them on there when I get the opportunity!

    Regarding the sporting stuff I agree, Josie said the same about some fencing in games she has played, i.e. it’s nothing like real fencing and you can do well at it by just waving wildly about….however….in Mario v Sonic there is some more skill attached, for example the fencing in that requires you to lunge and defend and so forth in a seemingly more skillful way and just attacking all the time will not win you the competititon (I don’t fence but can understand the basic moves). The archery in this is similar. I was in my youth Irish Schools Archery Champion (..another string to my bow!) and so I know the sport well and the game is not exactly like real archery but a certain element is, you DO need to judge the wind factor in archery and you do need to adjust your aim and alignment to get a better score. I find it very enjoyable and forgive the simplicity of the virtual. There are plenty of examples where you just hit and hope or flail madly until the end of the course in the hope of winning by being as manic as possible but there are increasingly a number of games where simple speed of movement is not enough. I like both types by the way and the boxing is great fun even when I do get beaten, which is quite regularly!

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