The Wii Vitality Sensor was first demoed at E3 2009, observers were both excited and puzzled. The peripheral was meant to measure a player's pulse rate and biometric stimulation, a new frontier in game interaction. But in the years since, Nintendo has kept quiet about the device, and in a recent investor Q&A, Nintendo president Satoru Iwata confirmed what many analysts had already guessed: the device is essentially dead.
The biggest problem, according to Iwata, was the reliability of the device. The prototype worked with 90% of test subjects, but engineers couldn't get it to work for the final 10%. As a result, Iwata told investors, "we could not get it to work as we expected and it was of narrower application than we had originally thought." Iwata left some hope for the device, saying that if engineers were able to increase the working rate to 99.9%, it would become viable as a commercial product. But more than four years after it was announced, the device is officially in a "pending" state, and all signs indicate Nintendo has shifted their attention elsewhere.
In the meantime, consumer biometrics have taken off with the Fitbit and Fuelband, and the rest of the gaming industry seems hungry for integration, with Xbox One's new biometric Kinect sensor and rumors of a mood-sensing Steam Box on the way. But while those products rush to market, Nintendo's biometric plans have been officially shelved.