The value of stillness on Wii Fit

07/09/2008

The value of stillness is often overlooked in exercise, education and life in general. Iyengar yoga addicts know it well and it’s good to find an immersive game that encourages it in the Zazen feature of the Wii Fit. This is the last balance game to be unlocked and is a fantastic treat after so much movement. Sitting on the board and trying to achieve stillness works surprisingly well. If I could improve it I would like it to be longer than the three minutes it offers, but even in that, you can experience a sense of stillness and calm. The flickering candle, the moth and the creaking footsteps add to the sense of timelessness.
It offers an important counterpoint to the high energy activity of the other games, but it could be an excellent means of encouraging stillness and meditation in the classroom. Bizarrely, making stillness a slightly competitive game, although counter-intuitive, feels quite attractive. This is pitched well to encourage all to participate, to be a bit of fun, but ultimately to give a genuine taste of the value of stillness.

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Immersive Games and OAP playgrounds

26/06/2008

Old people, especially the millions in the UK who don’t have access to a generous pension fund need playgrounds at least as much as they need retirement homes. More than ever at any previous time in their lives, they need opportunities to socialise widely and make new friends. One of the issues facing our society is the rise of a huge retired population. My mum was discussing the regeneration of our town centre and thinking about how we could place old people at the centre of the new market complex. We thought about how public spaces should have places where old and young can mix freely and cheaply, places that are accessible and right in the centre of the action. We talked about this while we sat in a crowded cafe and the unusual owner seated more people by the simple expedient of asking young people sitting on their own if they could shove up to make space for someone else – an old person. We then watched as the generations started to talk. It worked beautifully. We then attended a meeting where we were asked how we could improve the town centre. We raised the question of communal spaces, but the information gatherers couldn’t – or wouldn’t – get it. They wondered, would the generations want to mingle? What good could it possibly do? Maybe we could use the wonderful benefits of gaming to bring them together physically as well as in the virtual world. Eye Toy, Guitar Hero and Wii Fit could be the way forwards – I’m sure there are some old codgers who could deliver a polished rendition of Smoke On the Water to blow away the opposing 13-year olds.


Wii Fit, Eye Toy, exercise and weight loss

21/05/2008

The predecessor of the Wii Fit was the Eye Toy Kinetic, a ‘gym’ game for improving fitness. It was an important step but it didn’t get it quite right. Too complicated  to log in was one issue, repellently fit avatar trainers was another, but more importantly, it was designed for people who were already  fairly fit. This is a misunderstanding of its audience. Many creators continue to overlook the middle-aged audience they could harvest. The Eye Toy Kinetic’s routines require a level of agility seen in wiry teenagers, not fat middle-aged women who’ve forgotten, if they ever knew, how to exercise. But the Wii Fit has got it right. In the last four weeks I’ve watched some government morbidly obese statistics switch on to exercise because the Wii Fit helps you leap over the barriers to exercise without humiliation, finger-wagging or boredom. It manages to be motivational without ever being patronising. It gives frequent and timely feedback and it repays effort. I’ve seen a middle-aged man become competitive enough to beat a skinny teenager at hula hooping, and a woman who’s never run in her life jog for 60 minutes. This is when the technology becomes exciting, when it can incite this level of personal empowerment and change.


Wii Fit and balance (Hemiplegia)

08/05/2008

Tonight we tried out how it works out balance. The issue for someone who has right or left-sided hemiplegia caused by a brain injury to one side of the brain, is that it can leave a leg or arm underdeveloped, so that muscles and bone may not grow evenly with the limbs on the other side of the body. What is needed is a way of encouraging balance. And balance really requires that both feet be planted evenly on either side of the board. After a series of attempts to cheat at this – eg by trying to balance with tip toes on one side and flat foot on the other (as some hemiplegics will do left unattanded) it seemed that the Wii could pick up the lack of evenness in the body and feed that back through the on screen display. Which suggests it could be useful for hemiplegics


Wii, Eye Toy and Literacy

04/05/2008

The wonderful literacy expert Sue Palmer drew my attention to the way the alphabet can be taught using movement, with kids using their whole bodies to learn the shapes of letters – a bit like a massive use of the Magic pencil technique used by Clare Elstow in the BBC Words and Pictures series before she took over Cbeebies. Sue saw this technique used in scandinavian primary schools. The Wii and Eye Toy technology seems to me to be made for this.