When Nintendo first announced the Wii vitality sensor in 2009, to say that it was met with skepticism would be generous. For the most part, people thought it was a pretty dumb idea. Personally, I disagreed, and saw a lot of potential in the device. But despite the vitality sensor's potential, the proposed implementation was pretty poor. The Wii vitality sensor shown in 2009 was a small device that clipped onto your finger, and took up the expansion slot of the Wii remote, preventing the nunchuck attachment from being used. Bulky and limiting, gamers wouldn't want to wear it and in turn developers wouldn't want to support it.
That's where Project Cafe, and its rumored more-standard controller, comes in. True, there are the rumors that the controller will include a touchscreen, which is anything but standard. However, by "more-standard" I am referring to the accompanying rumors that it will also feature four face buttons, analog sticks, a d-pad, etc. What I'm getting at is that holding the controller will likely be similar to holding an Xbox 360 or PS3 controller.
What if the vitality sensor was built into the controller's handles, rather than something you attach to your finger?
It's a fairly common occurrence in exercise equipment, with stationary bikes, treadmills, and elliptical machines often featuring heart rate monitors built into their handle bars. Why couldn't similar technology be built into a game controller?
With a vitality sensor built into the controller, there would be no bulky accessory to worry about for gamers. Developers would also be more likely to use its features with the guarantee that every player will have access to it, unlike the balance board or, until recently, Wii Motion Plus.
But why would we want a vitality sensor built into the controller, didn't people think it was a dumb idea anyway? Yes, but I strongly believe that was a reaction to its implementation as an accessory rather than the concept of a vitality sensor itself. Hypothetically, it could add tremendous depth to games. Imagine a game where the difficulty curves in accordance with your own heart rate to provide a consistent challenge. Or a survival horror game used your heart rate to perfectly time its scares for maximum effect. Imagine playing Dead Space 3 and your actual heart rate is used to determine the rate of oxygen depletion in outer space segments. I can't even imagine what Tetsuya Mizuguchi could do with a rhythm game using a player's heart rate, but it would surely be spectacular.
If the functionality were to be a core component of a console, the possibilities extend beyond subtle gameplay modifications. Feedback could be automatically sent to developers from your system showing how you reacted at each moment of a game. It could be a valuable tool for developers to learn how their games are being played so they can improve in the future. Of course, such feedback would require Nintendo to upgrade its online services to something above being utterly worthless, so perhaps this is a hypothetical taken too far into fantasy.
I'm not saying all or any of this will happen. This is purely speculation as to what could happen based on precedent. In a recent investor briefing, Iwata mentioned that development continues on the vitality sensor, and with Project Cafe looming in the not so distant future, a merging of the two isn't outside the realm of possibility. I realize that with so many rumors already surrounding Project Cafe's controller, I'm simply adding fuel to a fire that is already raging out of control. But while the rumors of touchscreens and cameras could change the way games are played, a built in vitality sensor could change the way games are made. The latter always struck me as more Nintendo's style.