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Video games geeks may lose their image as couch potatoes if the new generation of video consoles catches on.
The latest machines use motion sensors to allow players to leap about the living room when playing tennis games or to “shoot” a bow and arrow.
Nintendo on Tuesday unveiled its next-generation consoles at E3, the industry’s biggest show, with Shigeru Miyamoto, its star games designer, dressed in tails and conducting a virtual orchestra. He used the stick-shaped wireless controller of Nintendo’s new Wii console as a baton.
The presentation ended with Mr Miyamoto and Satoru Iwata, Nintendo’s president, leaping wildly around the stage and making sweeping movements with their controllers as they played a game of on-screen tennis.
Videos were also shown of gamers playing fishing, running, golf, driving and sword-fighting games by wielding and waving the revolutionary controller.
The new technology takes games consoles beyond what can be seen on a screen, according to Nintendo, which said that its latest offering relied on innovation rather than the kind of expensive machines being pushed by its competitors Microsoft and Sony.
But the wireless controller is also a symbol of the industry trying to expand its audience beyond core gamers and to get players off the couch.
The move began with Sony’s Eye Toy – a camera and motion sensor that put players inside PlayStation 2 games and allowed them to punch and kick opponents.
Sony followed up on Monday showing its latest wireless controller with motion sensors for the PlayStation 3 that allowed players to “fly” a plane.
Nintendo has gone a stage further. Its partner ST Microelectronics has miniaturised the motion-sensor chips it makes for the motor industry to create a new gaming experience.
“It’s been a big challenge capturing human motion and also achieving high sensitivity for the sensors in an inexpensive format,” says Benedetto Vigna, director of ST’s sensor business unit.
Nintendo showed it had hit the target when it demonstrated using the controller as a bow and arrow. A speaker in the controller gave the sound of the bow being pulled taut while the sound of the arrow’s flight travelled to the TV monitor as it found its victim.