Nintendo putting vitality sensor on hold

Nintendo has confirmed it has put its vitality sensor project on ice, following poor results during internal testing.

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Responding to an investor question during the company’s 73rd annual general meeting of shareholders, Nintendo president Satoru Iwata confirmed that, at least for now, the vitality sensor peripheral unveiled during the 2009 Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) would not be coming to market.

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“The Wii Vitality Sensor was under development as an accessory for Wii. We thought it would be interesting to understand how the human autonomic nerve functions while using the Wii Vitality Sensor, and we did develop trial software and showed the media some of its features,” he said.

Iwata cited inconsistent results during internal testing, saying that Nintendo could not commercialise a product that did not work for all users, with around 10 percent of those who tried the device not able to operate it.

“However, after a large-scale test of a prototype inside the company, we found out that for some people, the sensor did not work as expected,” Iwata said. “We wondered if we should commercialize a product which works as expected for 90 people out of 100, but not so for the other 10 people. Though I am sorry that we did not give any specific updates after this product’s initial announcement, I would say that knowing that a product has a problem, we should not launch it for the sole reason that we have already announced it.”

While the project appears to have been shelved indefinitely until the product is more inclusive for all users, Nintendo hasn't ruled out bringing it to market if the technical challenges can be overcome.

“We would like to launch it into the market if technology advancements enable 999 of 1,000 people to use it without any problems, not only 90 out of 100 people. I actually think that it must be 1,000 of 1,000 people, but (since we use the living body signal with individual differences), it is a little bit of a stretch to make it applicable to every single person,” he said.

A US patent filing that surfaced in 2010 revealed that Nintendo's proposed vitality sensor would work by shooting infrared light through a person's fingertip; determining how fast the blood was flowing, and in turn indicating player stress levels.

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