Nintendo is redefining entertainment with a sleep sensor

"Quality of Life" initiative's first step will be a device to monitor and visualise sleeping patterns

Nintendo is collaborating with experts in sleep-related disorders and diseases for the first device in its new "Quality of Life" initiative.

In a corporate briefing in January, Nintendo stated it was redefining entertainment as anything that, "improve people's QOL or Quality of Life in enjoyable ways." Now, Satoru Iwata - who has recently returned to work following a period of ill health - has shed some light on how that idea will manifest in terms of products.

Specifically, as its "first step" Nintendo is working on a device that monitors and visualises the quality of its users' nightly rest.

"Everyone needs to sleep, and all of us get tired," Nintendo's president said in a presentation to investors. "However, we tend to recognise these conditions in a subjective fashion. Fatigue and sleep are themes that are rather hard to visualize in more objective ways. At Nintendo, we believe that if we could visualise them, there would be great potential for many people regardless of age, gender, language or culture."

Nintendo believes that the lack of a "definitive product" for visualising sleep is down to the tendency of existing products to ask too much of the user. With this in mind, Nintendo's device will be built on five principles: it shouldn't be worn by the user, it should have no physical contact with the body, it shouldn't require direct operation to recognise when sleeping begins, the user should be able to receive feedback without waiting, and it should have no complicated installation procedure.

Or, to use Iwata's terminology: non-wearable, non-contact, non-operating, non-waiting, and non-installation efforts.

"Inside the QOL Sensor is a non-contact radio frequency sensor, which measures such things as the movements of your body, breathing and heartbeat, all without physically touching your body," Iwata said. "This automatically gathered data will be transmitted to the QOL cloud servers, which will then analyse the data measured by the sensor and visually represent sleep and fatigue results."

The "non-contact sensor measurement technology and sleep condition estimation technology" will be provided by ResMed, a US-based Australian company that manufactures products for the treatment of sleep disorders. The processes for the analysis and visual interpretation of sleep data will be developed in collaboration with Dr. Hirohiko Kuratsune and Dr. Seiki Tajima, both researchers in fatigue science.

"Based upon the sleep and fatigue status of the consumer which have both been 'visualized', services intended to improve QOL will be proposed," Iwata continued. "Consumers will be encouraged to take certain actions, such as exercising or changing diet... By continuing the measurements every day, users will be able to observe a gradual change achieved by their actions."

As Iwata has previously noted, this constitutes an entirely new conception of "entertainment" on Nintendo's part. And as the presentation drew to a close, Iwata also indicated that Nintendo has changed its view of what constitutes a "platform" to one that integrates third-party devices like smartphones.

"When we look at the prevalence of smart devices today, if we can use them to help visually represent sleep and fatigue status, it would be a waste not to make use of them to, for example, check the status or offer service to users. Needless to say, it would also be possible to use dedicated video game systems that could help to improve QOL.

"As with the definition of entertainment, Nintendo is willing to expand the definition of 'platform' without being bound by traditional thinking."

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Latest comments (15)

Julian Williams Founder, WIZDISH Ltd.7 years ago
I really like this. You have to applaud Nintendo for looking for ways to harness entertainment technology as a means to improve people's health.
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Paul Johnson Managing Director / Lead code monkey, Rubicon Development7 years ago
You got up three times to piss. Achievement unlocked?
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Klaus Preisinger Freelance Writing 7 years ago
I thought we as a civilization hit the all time low, when we started to stare at kitchen TVs telling us how the weather was outside the kitchen window, moments before taking the fully air conditioned car to our fully air conditioned work place.

Now we need a sleep sensor to tell us how we slept? How is this redefining entertainment? Does being entertained now mean being asleep? Does the new paradigm of player engagement require inducing a comatose state? [i"]No Timmy, Grandma is not dead, she is playing the new Nintendo Mario game"[/i]. Tell you what, I am now going to sleep in a selfless attempt to personally measure the quality of my sleep without technological supervision.
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Show all comments (15)
Julian Williams Founder, WIZDISH Ltd.7 years ago
@Paul. Haha, very good :)
Mind you if you did that every night it would recommend a PSA test.
Its stretching it a bit far to count health screening as entertaining but re-purposing cheap sophisticated gaming tech to improve QOL can't be that bad. Once you've had a health scare its probably easier to see where Iwata is coming from.
I hope the advertising is a bit more measured than for brain training. The consensus there was that the time would be far better spent exercising.
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Keldon Alleyne Strategic Keyboard Basher, Avasopht Development7 years ago
Now we need a sleep sensor to tell us how we slept? How is this redefining entertainment?
Entertainment would be stretching it, but if you have an elusive sleep dysfunction then yes you do need a sensor to tell you how you've slept, especially if you are trying to assess the effectiveness of your medication or therapy. And no, you can't just tell how you've slept when you have a sleep dysfunction (it's something you'd have to either have experienced or have studied extensively to understand) but suffice to say it's a minefield trying to solve a sleep dysfunction without monitoring.

It was only when I had monitoring like this that my doctors were able to diagnose a neurological dysfunction that had plagued me for years. And because I thought I was sleeping properly throughout the night I was always perplexed as to why I'm always waking up tired and fighting to stay awake during the day.

And I see it in a lot of people who are constantly fatigued but aren't aware of the fact it's most likely down to an underlying sleep disorder they're completely oblivious to. It might not help a majority of the population, but for those who it will this could quite easily be a life saver!!
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Keldon Alleyne Strategic Keyboard Basher, Avasopht Development7 years ago
On the flipside, what does this redefining of a platform mean for Nintendo's franchises and future console developments? Could this device encourage healthy sleeping habits by making your players tired if you don't sleep?
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Klaus Preisinger Freelance Writing 7 years ago
With all due respect, but in case of having a sleeping condition, seeing a doctor is the top choice, while going to Gamestop or Toys R Us is at the very bottom. Because in the end, the real medical value of the Nintendo QoL can be observed by how carefully the wording calls it "sleep condition estimation technology". Go science! This Nintendo thing is the latest in a long list of personal fitness devices to collect pointless trivia about yourself.

As for Nintendo's "expanded platform" spreadsheed: that is pretty much where everybody else already has expanded to. Remeber, it is not an internet database storing private medical information on some virtual machine ready to be hacked, it is a "Qulity of Life Cloud".
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Keldon Alleyne Strategic Keyboard Basher, Avasopht Development7 years ago
With all due respect, but in case of having a sleeping condition, seeing a doctor is the top choice, while going to Gamestop or Toys R Us is at the very bottom
Well as someone with actual experience I can tell you that unless you can afford to fund private observation you will be waiting in excess of two years before reaching the diagnosis I had. In fact I had been going to the doctors for several years and had to aggressively demand actual scans, which took over a year before I finally received my results - and that's with me pushing the process contrary to their typical long winded set of steps.

Sleep monitoring products are a godsend and I will be investing in some for my own personal use as constant monitoring is important for assessing progress.

Again this is coming from actual experience in dealing with the National Health Service and the equipment being used. Toys R Us or not, monitoring equipment gives you actual data, which is what this aims to provide. And comparing it to what was used by me, I think I'm at a good vantage point to give an informed opinion.

Edited 4 times. Last edit by Keldon Alleyne on 1st November 2014 5:06pm

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Andy Samson QA Supervisor, Digital Media Exchange7 years ago
If you think this device sounds crazy then it's not for you. There are a lot of people with difficulties in sleeping, or sleep disorders. This device has the potential to help these people improve their lives, or even save it. Sweet dreams!
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Pete Thompson Editor 7 years ago
I've suffered from poor sleep for a while so I'm curious to know how this differs from the likes of a fitbit, as I've used a Fitbit to monitor my sleep for a while now, although it only monitors movement it's quite handy to see the data it produces. Even phones and smart-watches can now monitor sleep, and a true sleep detector is supposed to monitor things such as heart rate, eye movement and brain waves so will Nintendo's device do that? Also, We're constantly being told that the modern world we live is bad for sleep with the blues emitted from phone screens and tv's etc, so I'm intrigued as to how they intend to overcome looking at a screen prior to going to sleep..

I'll definitely be keeping an eye on this.. :)
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Aleksi Ranta Category Management Project Manager 7 years ago
I dont think sleep analysis, monitoring or what not can be considered entertainment. You are asleep when the "fun" is happening.
Quality of life improvement maybe, entertainment....well no.
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Jeff Kleist Writer, Marketing, Licensing 7 years ago
This is what I will say.

Kinect is being used already for a variety of medical devices, many of which are in full on lab tests.

Many Japanese firms Americans onlynknow for TVs and stereos are incredibly diversified in Japan, including health technologies

I have my doubts that Nintendo will be very successful in this venture. As usual, they're tears behind everyone else. They've been toying with this stuff for years. Lots of people, including Spple are already in the game. Nine do needs to play to their strengths, and merge with someone who can help the, exploit their IP to its fullest. The time to diversify was twenty years ago, when Japan was still rising high and it's manufacturing was strong, and consumers weren't reeling from a major recession. Poke-World at Disney is far more in their wheelhouse than this.
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Keldon Alleyne Strategic Keyboard Basher, Avasopht Development7 years ago
I think Nintendo might need to create new IP for tomorrow generations as you can only repackage old as new for so long. They could even be new IPs in the spirit of existing franchises but made for a new generation.

I say this because how "new" a brand is is a small factor that goes into the consumers internal evaluation of how they will attach themselves to it and an old franchise will always be viewed as something aged.

Alternatively they could push to maintain the strength of the IPs as you have suggested, but unless they can dominate they don't stand a chance of establishing such a strong connection, so right now the 3ds would have to play that role as the primary tool for introducing their franchises.

Remember, to our generation - or at least mine - sonic and Mario are video game icons. Add to the nostalgia associated with new technology, new genres fresh takes on the two I get this feeling that we will not see those high levels of loyalty Nintendo have relied on in the past.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Keldon Alleyne on 3rd November 2014 9:31am

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Adam Campbell Product Manager, Azoomee7 years ago
Not sure what this has to do with entertainment, it comes under a different category entirely. But its interesting to see Nintendo move into another area of consumer electronics.

I might add, this product would somewhat appeal to me.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Adam Campbell on 3rd November 2014 10:32am

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Jeff Kleist Writer, Marketing, Licensing 7 years ago
Kelvin you have it spot in. As I've been saying as well, the last fifteen years of kids have no nostalgic attachment to Nintendo in general. Appke is already supplanting them, with the fragility and expense of the products being the major obstacle for them creating serious trouble.

Disney has been selling the same movies tompeople for 70 years, and Nintendo is desperately thing to copy their model. But they don't have a Walt Disney, they have Frank and Ollies. And they don't have the ability to successfully exploit their IP outside their home medium, and they are so focused on Japan, and technologically behind that it's not something they can escape

Nintendo needs to merge with Appke or Disney, or watch the continued erosion of their assets. They don't have to end up like Sega, and they almost certainly won't.
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