Hackers alter Wii controller for disabled users

University of Delaware students say they have hacked the Wii video game controller and the Wii Fit’s Wii Balance Board to be used with applications for disabled people.

Dubbed WiiAssist, the project adapts the infrared sensors in the Wii controller, which detects a Wii game player’s motion and position, so that it can be attached to someone’s head. The sensor is then used to track head movements, which can control a mouse in a computer application.

The project is the work of students Rob Rehrig, Josh Marks and Larry Aiello. Their aim is to make computers easier to use for disabled people. With the Wii Balance Board, which is used to enhance game control in the Wii Fit exercise game, the students added capability such as using your body to control a mouse and scroll up and down a screen. You do so by leaning one way or another on the Balance Board.

This is one of those science projects at Defcon, the hacking conference in Las Vegas where all sorts of hacking tips are exchanged. A sister conference to Black Hat in Las Vegas, Defcon is a wild and woolly conference, full of zany presentations in addition to serious security talks. The subjects range from hacking the air traffic control system to World of Warcraft. While Black Hat appeals to law enforcement and corporate security professionals, Defcon is open to the wider hacking community.

The demo wasn’t particularly astounding. But it shows the thirst for better user interfaces for living room game machines and computers. Once we get 3-D gesture tracking with future game systems such as Microsoft’s Project Natal, it could open up new horizons for disabled people.

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