Four years after its bizarre unveiling at E3 2009, Nintendo has finally given the world an update on its off-the-wall pulse-sensing Wii Vitality Sensor.

It is, for the moment, dead.


"After a large-scale test of a prototype inside the company, we found out that for some people the sensor did not work as expected," Nintendo president Satoru Iwata explained in a recent investora Q&A.

The device only worked on nine out of 10 test subjects, Nintendo discovered, a success rate that just wasn't good enough.

"We pushed forward its development on the academic assumption that by observing the wave patterns of the human pulse, we could quantify how tense or relaxed a person is," Iwata explained. "Or, to be more specific, how much the sympathetic and parasympathetic nerves work as functions of the autonomic nerve."

The device could have been used within horror games to measure how scared you were, or in a Wii Fit-style yoga title to track how zen you were feeling.

Nintendo was still explaining the sensor's absence as late as 2011 but has now, it seems, finally given up on the technology.

Or has it?

"The Wii Vitality Sensor is an interesting device," Iwata continued, "and we did various experiments to see what is possible when it was combined with a video game. But, as a result, we have not been able to launch it as a commercial product because we could not get it to work as we expected and it was of narrower application than we had originally thought.

"We would like to launch it into the market if technology advancements enable 999 of 1000 people to use it without any problems, not only 90 out of 100 people."

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Tom Phillips

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