How Wii and Kinect Hack Into Your Emotions

Editor's note: Wired Science reports on Katherine Isbister's, NYU-Poly associate professor of digital media, latest gaming research. Dr. Isbister is the research director of NYU-Poly's new Game Innovation Lab, which is expected to be completed by late winter/early spring.


Nintendo’s Wii game console may owe some of its extraordinary success to emotions that are triggered by specific movements: It might essentially be using your body to hack into your brain.

A better understanding of which motions trigger which emotions might not only lead to better games, but could one day help improve the iPhone, iPad and other gesture-based and multitouch interfaces as well.

“There’s no reason why dealing with a spreadsheet or sorting e-mail couldn’t be as wonderful as tai chi,” said computer and social scientist Katherine Isbister at NYU’s Polytechnic Institute in Brooklyn. “Games are the perfect ecosystems for evolving fun, and hopefully we might be able take those lessons elsewhere.”

The Nintendo Wii introduced physical movements to gaming consoles and in just four years became the fastest-selling console of all time. Now Isbister and her colleagues are investigating how Wii games can make us feel by mapping the responses certain movements and gestures evoke.

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