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Using Hacked Wiimotes As Scientific Sensors 110

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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  • "scientists" (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 15, 2009 @09:59PM (#30453110)

    Seems like more of an engineering challenge than a scientific one.

  • Oh Science. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Interoperable ( 1651953 ) on Tuesday December 15, 2009 @10:03PM (#30453144)

    “There are probably better ways to measure wind, but it was a day well-spent,” Hut said. “I really felt the need to solder something.”

    A day well-spent indeed! There's nothing like spending a day to save a few dollars by not having to buy a specialized sensor. Sounds like my Master's research; why buy good equipment when grad students can spend ages building a poor imitation of it? Still, those days are usually the most fun part of "science" and certainly afford excellent learning opportunities.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 15, 2009 @10:04PM (#30453150)

    ...this equipment can run $500 or more...

    The scientific equipment is more expensive because laboratories are willing to pay more, and have the money. Gamers aren't willing to pay $500 for a controller.

    Look here: Digikey [] has 18000 pressure sensors available. I picked one [] at random, and it can measure pressure up to 115 psi, which is about 60 meters deep in water. It only costs $12. I could make you the serial port/USB interface for like 20 bucks.

    Scientists only pay that much because they are willing to pay that much.

  • by Psaakyrn ( 838406 ) on Tuesday December 15, 2009 @10:18PM (#30453258)

    However, you're underestimating the cost of time. Mass production decreases both the cost and time of making a specific product (or combination of products).

  • Anything goes... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by MindPrison ( 864299 ) on Tuesday December 15, 2009 @10:21PM (#30453282) Journal

    ...thats the beauty of science, we're not limited to "have to", but more what we could do - "because we can".

    In amateur science circles, we also used commercially available TV-tuners as spectrum analyzers, instead of purchasing a commercial test-instrument that cost up to a 100.000 dollars, it could be made to perform pretty close and pretty well with some external circuitry for a few hundred bucks, made it affordable for the radio-amateur, science amateurs, and science students everywhere.

    Absolutely LOVE to see people use the resources like the Wiimote like that, excellent!

    So yeah - sky's the limit!

  • Re:"scientists" (Score:4, Insightful)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Tuesday December 15, 2009 @10:22PM (#30453288) Journal
    While you can get a fair amount of science kit off the shelves these days, "science" has always involved a good bit of engineering, if you want your experiments to actually happen.

    Sometimes there is an explicit division of labor, sometimes the same person performs both functions.
  • by SleazyRidr ( 1563649 ) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @01:53AM (#30454388)

    Which brings us back to the problem of a market that is too small.

    Not enough people are doing high-end research to make it worth Nintendo's (or anyone's) effort to produce them on a mass scale.

  • by nametaken ( 610866 ) * on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @02:01AM (#30454446)

    What I found interesting was that they were able to figure out the relatively complicated parts of performing the measurements and recording them in a way they can use later, and yet they still haven't worked out a larger battery?

  • by hairykrishna ( 740240 ) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @06:39AM (#30455468)

    So the accelerometer set up you propose would cost about the same as the wiimote only they'd have to build it from scratch and write some software for it? Plus, why would you want to process the data on board? You're not doing anything with it immediately. I see your point about the camera though. What res are wiimote cameras?

  • Re:"scientists" (Score:2, Insightful)

    by HNS-I ( 1119771 ) on Wednesday December 16, 2009 @06:56AM (#30455584)
    Clifford Stoll:

    The first time you do something it's science, the second time it's engineering, the third time it's just being a technician.

"Tell the truth and run." -- Yugoslav proverb