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Nintendo Is Watching You... Sleep


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Nintendo's first 'non-wearable' is a sleep-tracking device


Although Nintendo reported encouraging Q2 earnings yesterday, the company has been clear about its need to expand into new areas of business. At an investor briefing today, CEO and president Satoru Iwata announced that Nintendo is working on a sleep-tracking device that uses radio waves to monitor users' nighttime activity. The news represents the first solid details we've heard about Nintendo's "Quality of Life (QOL) platform, which Iwata first mentioned back in January with talk of mysterious "non-wearable" technology.


Iwata expanded on the concept of "non-wearable" today, saying the sleep-tracking device won't require wearing, contact, operation, waiting time, or installation effort on the part of the user; from a simple drawing on a presentation slide, it's designed to be placed on a bedside table.

The device will be developed in collaboration with Resmed, a firm that has created technology to treat disorders such as sleep apnea and sells a non-contact sleep-tracking device that sounds pretty similar to Nintendo's plans. It'll upload data to Nintendo's QOL servers and help users monitor the quality of their sleep and the level of their fatigue. Nintendo says that its game machines and smart devices will also be able to interface with the QOL cloud platform. The QOL initiative is set to launch in 2016.


Nintendo has entered similar territory before, of course, with the massive success of Wii Fit and the shelved Wii Vitality Sensor. The Wii Fit series has sold over 42 million copies, demonstrating the company's knack for simple software that makes sense of fitness data. But it was first released to a different world, one before Fitbit, Jawbone, and countless other companies attempted to leverage the rise of smartphones to help track users' health. (Microsoft just launched its own fitness platform and accompanying wearable device hours ago.) Nintendo has to be betting on its ability to differentiate with software, and that enough users will care about the "non-wearable" stipulation for its efforts to stand out in the crowd.

How this will do them any good is beyond me. The next morning it will just say "Stop playing games before you go to bed". No one will ever buy a Wii U any more! Oh wait...

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Maybe one for Off Topic!

I think the biggest potential problem with this is is relies heavily on Software and Online, two things Nintendo are shit at. Based on past experience they'll have cute touches like Mario jumping on the buttons or something that fail to distract from 10 second loading times whenever it needs to switch to a different screen (down from 30 seconds with a patch), and try and get you to memorise a 16 digit code everytime you want to sync it with your phone or something.

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I literally have no idea what good this particular device will do though. I mean you can tell on your own wether or not you've had a good night's rest haven't you?

What will it indicate? "Oh your brain patterns were very unstable at 2:33, try to sleep harder next time. Thank you for choosing Nintendo New Sleep U."

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Begun, this health-tracking device war has.

As with wearable tech, the interesting element of this isn't going to be the data it gathers, so much as what it does with it. An increasing number of gadgets offer to gather data about our lives and habits, but so far I haven't seen a single software package make compelling use of this data; it's just graphs and stats, and horribly generic advice: "You've been sitting for an hour; why not go for a walk?" etc. They're not entirely useless (as a naturally lazy bastard, I've been more active since getting a FitBit), but the real revelation will come when the analytics can use this data to offer individually-tailored suggestions and advice about how to improve our lives. Don't think we're there yet with sensors or software though, so will be interesting to see if Nintendo have anything to add.

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  • 1 year later...

Nintendos sleep tracker probably cancelled

Nintendo's mysterious "Quality of Life" initiative was meant to have launched by the end of this March, but the first product in the program isn't going to make that date — if it ever comes out at all. CEO and president Tatsumi Kimishima made a point of bringing up QOL himself during an investor Q&A session following the company's earnings release this week, saying that Nintendo doesn't have enough confidence that the sleep-tracking device announced in 2014 could become a viable consumer product.

That's not to say that Nintendo will roll back its QOL strategy altogether. Kimishima says he still thinks Nintendo has something to offer in the space, so will consider expanding the company's operations in that direction. But the announcement that the sleep tracker will likely never see release is reminiscent of the notorious Vitality Sensor, a biometric Wii peripheral announced at E3 2009 and shelved by late former CEO Satoru Iwata in 2013 because it didn't work properly. Nintendo was working on QOL with Resmet, a company that has sold sleep-tracking devices for years, so the technological potential of this project shouldn't have been a surprise.

Perhaps Nintendo simply has its hands full. Following the failure of the Wii U and slowing sales of the 3DS, the company is launching an array of smartphone games this year and is expected to unveil a whole new console codenamed NX. A new service called My Nintendo will also land in the coming months, offering cross-platform features and rewards.
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