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Using Hacked Wiimotes As Scientific Sensors 110

Posted by samzenpus
from the graduated-joystick dept.
garg0yle writes "Scientists are repurposing Wiimotes as scientific sensors to help measure wind speed or evaporation from lakes, among other things. At about $40 per unit, the controller is much cheaper than specialized sensors. The scientists are still considering how to add storage and extend the battery life."

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Using Hacked Wiimotes As Scientific Sensors

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  • by Tisha_AH (600987) <Tisha.Hayes@gmail.com> on Tuesday December 15, 2009 @10:06PM (#30453162) Journal

    I think the pricing of scientific instrumentation is based largely upon the limited number of devices produced. The folks who make sensors really do not care too much about the price and are looking at recovering their development, manufacturing and marketing costs off of very small sales quantities.

    A case in point; I work with AMI (SmartGrid) systems for measuring water and electricity consumption. These devices have a surprising level of sophistication, very long battery lives (10-20 years off of a Li-Ion battery) and can store a data-point every fifteen minutes and report it back across a radio network. I "know" the manufacturing costs are down in the $30-60 range for each device. The manufacturers are all anxious to get customers (utilities) to spend their millions on projects to put SmartGrid technologies into cities so the more you buy, the cheaper they get. The data is frequently coming from "absolute encoders" on water meters and less frequently, from pulse encoders that generate a certain number of pulses per 1000's of gallons (the device counts them up, multiplies them by a K factor and gives you a corrected value for gallons of water consumed).

    The Nintendo Wi is a good example. How many millions of the Wi devices are made? If they were $250 each there would not be many consumers buying them so they mass-produce and keep the prices low. You see the same effect when you hear about banks of PlayStation 3's being used in clusters for supercomputing.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 15, 2009 @10:21PM (#30453278)

    are there any details for the wind sensor? It's only mentioned in the story but not linked to any additional information.

  • Funny coincidence (Score:5, Interesting)

    by idolcrash (836925) <idolcrashNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Tuesday December 15, 2009 @10:32PM (#30453350) Journal
    The lab I work in uses hacked Wiimotes to study visual pecerption in autism, Alzheimer's, and Parkinson's. They can be programmed with C#, which our PI and another undergrad learned to work with the Wiimotes...the ease of use and the hackability are pretty good selling points besides the price.
  • Re:Power Glove (Score:2, Interesting)

    by inode_buddha (576844) on Tuesday December 15, 2009 @10:51PM (#30453432) Journal
    it would sell if you had interactive pr0n games...
  • by idolcrash (836925) <idolcrashNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Tuesday December 15, 2009 @11:40PM (#30453694) Journal
    This is because, for the most part, scientists are focused on their research subject and their area of expertise, cost reduction, not so much. You can't really expect everyone everywhere (especially outside of engineering) to know the intricacies of arduinos, NI DAQs, etc. as well as how to best implement them. That's for the engineers, really, and having and extra engineer on the research team most likely costs more than the savings they could help with...plus I'm not sure how many, say electrical engineers, would be interested in that kind of work anyways.
  • by tlhIngan (30335) <slashdotNO@SPAMworf.net> on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @01:46AM (#30454350)

    And the flipside happens too - scientific instruments are used for cooking. In this case, it's for cooking delicate foods using a thermal immersion circulator to cook sous-vide.

    http://gizmodo.com/5346014/what-is-this [gizmodo.com]

    It's used because it's the best way to do precision temperature control.

  • by pbrooks100 (778828) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @08:10AM (#30456092)

    In my experience, doing some sensor systems with cheap sensors and expensive sensors, the difference is that cheap ones can be fast or accurate, while good ones can be both. ... Its really a matter of knowing what you need. In many cases a cheap sensor works really well.

    Using cheap sensors can allow you to validate your hypothesis. This can in turn help you justify the additional expense of calibrated and more precise sensors to accurately describe the relationship observed. (You can also use spares of the cheap sensor equipment to play games and blow off steam while the experiment is running; Mario Kart anyone? :)

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