GLaDOS would be proud. There's science to do and the Wii is getting it done, though not to make a neat gun. Instead, a group of very clever scientists at the Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands have figured out a way to get Nintendo's inexpensive controller to measure water evaporation, which is an important variable when working with climatology.
According to the paper's abstract in Water Resources Research:
The $40 "Wiimote" (an input device belonging with the Nintendo® Wii™ game system) can be used by hydrologists as a sensor. The device contains three accelerometers and an infrared camera with built-in source tracking. It communicates by Bluetooth®. Because of the efforts of the hacking community it is now easy to let the Wiimote communicate with a standard personal computer. Using a floating evaporation pan as an example, we show that the Wiimote, although it may have potential drawbacks when used in field campaigns, is a good addition to the hydrologist's bag of tools, especially for proof of concept testing.
This is one of the things I love about gaming: inexpensive leaps in versatile technology. The tools and equipment needed for any type of scientific research are often very expensive, and after investing hundreds or even thousands (or even TENS of thousands) of dollars in equipment, even well-funded groups would be hesitant to get the next greatest thing when the current pricey do-dads perform just fine. But video game technology is cheap, comparatively speaking, making it a low-risk investment that can yield great returns when properly modified.
Remember Folding@Home for the PS3 to study protein folding which is related to numerous diseases, or the US military linking 2,500 of the machines together to research supercomputing? And the medical industry is already experimenting with the Kinect for manipulating 3D images with gestures, which is more intuitive than doing the same with a mouse and keyboard. For the doubting Thomases, other experiments have shown that the Kinect is very accurate, so the dodgy response you get in some games is the fault of the software programming, not Microsoft's experimental hardware.
So now the Wii is getting involved in the scientific process, and like the PS3 and Kinect it provides cheap, powerful, modable technology to be used to a greater potential than most folks probably anticipated. If someone can figure out how to combine the three Voltron-like with a little dash of Apple magic and we'll finally get what we've all been waiting for: holodecks!
[via Ars Technica]