I should preface this one by stating it’s interesting what one’s mind thinks about when you are up for a 4 AM feeding with your newborn. However, I was sitting here staring at our Wii Balance Board during this particular feeding and remembered seeing some pretty fascinating hacks online.

The Wii system itself is pretty interesting. The use of relatively simple technology that is only moderately evolved from the days of the original Nintendo’s Duck Hunt emphasizes the ability of innovation in user interface to produce results as great as, or better than evolutions in graphics. But take that one step further and make these relatively simple technologies an open source platform for others to tweak and you have a plethora of opportunities for new Virtual Reality applications of inexpensive technologies.

Johnny Lee has shown how a nominal additional investment in hardware can produce a digital white board and highlights the benefits for educational institutions. He also shows how reversing the sensor bar and controller can produce a head tracking, VR helmet-like imitation. More recently, the Wii Balance Board has been hacked by guys in a German Artificial Intelligence lab and can be used to navigate Google Earth and virtual environments like World of Warcraft and Second Life. Who wouldn’t love to surf, both physically and figuratively, over their city anyway?

It is fascinating how, like so many successful evolutions of technology, Virtual Reality is not hitting us overnight with some single leap in evolution like so many predicted. Instead, it is creeping in among us through the continuous evolution of innovative interface implementations.

For more material on this topic, check out YouTube Wii Hacks and / or the clips below. As a bonus, in Johnny’s Lee’s famous hack video below, he mentions how YouTube has really expedited the evolution of innovations like these. Roughly quoting Johnny, “In 5 months an idea has gone from experimentation on my desktop to a commercially available product.”

Johnny Lee’s Hack Video, including VR head sensor:

The Wii Balance Board Hacks from Germany: