RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
And on Mondays, we talk about technology. Today, a videogame console that's a bigger hit that many had expected.
Since late last year, Nintendo has sold nearly two million of its Wii game systems. The Wii success is due to its unique handheld controller. Instead of tapping buttons with your thumbs, you have to get off the couch and move your body.
Technology writer Mario Armstrong joined me in the studio to talk about the Wii and how it's changing the way other electronic products are made. First, he gave me a video tennis lesson with a racket that looks like a TV remote control.
MARIO ARMSTRONG: You probably should stand up.
MONTAGNE: Stand up, like I'm doing, and I'm kind of...
ARMSTRONG: And it - yeah. Go ahead and get out of your chair, stand up. All right. Let's see - act like you're actually on a tennis court. I'm actually going to stand up with you.
ARMSTRONG: And I'm going to serve.
ARMSTRONG: And swing.
MONTAGNE: Oh, oh!
ARMSTRONG: Now is that how you...
MONTAGNE: Okay. I...
ARMSTRONG: Is that how you would normally swing a tennis racket?
MONTAGNE: Not exactly, but I'm not - first of all, I'm not a good tennis player.
(Soundbite of laughter)
MONTAGNE: But secondly, I don't know what they told you.
ARMSTRONG: Imagine a tennis racket...
MONTAGNE: Try and be a tennis...
ARMSTRONG: ...in your hand. I'm just going up like I would throw the ball in the air and coming down like I would hit the ball. Yes, you did it.
ARMSTRONG: I did that. I'm just having fun.
MONTAGNE: I'm so...
(Soundbite of laughter)
ARMSTRONG: But you can see it's - you know, it's active. So...
MONTAGNE: My arm was really moving. All the Wii technology, all the games, you're doing some version of the movement yourself.
ARMSTRONG: Correct. Now it becomes a much different user experience that's pulling you in in a different way. And you see other companies now that are going more towards this usability and user interface, and how can we make our product most acceptable or most applicable to today's everyday lifestyle for people?
MONTAGNE: You have another piece of technology here for us, I know.
ARMSTRONG: Yeah. This is a tablet PC, something that you actually can write on. The software on this tablet can read my natural handwriting and convert that to text. For instance, I'll pull up a basic sheet of paper on my screen so you can actually see.
MONTAGNE: Oh, here, let me try.
ARMSTRONG: So I'm going to give you the pen, which is a stylus...
MONTAGNE: Right up my alley.
ARMSTRONG: You now are writing on the computer, but it's a virtual sheet of paper.
MONTAGNE: Right. And, you know, I mean, I'm just writing in regular handwriting.
ARMSTRONG: And there's nothing new with the tablet PC itself. This category has been around for a little while. But with the advent of technologies like the Wii, like Windows Vista, like Apple's iPhone, you're starting to see more usability features in their product line. And this tablet is starting to show some signs that what used to be maybe a failed product is starting to look like it may be revived here through this new look at how usable things can be.
MONTAGNE: Where might this lead us?
ARMSTRONG: I think we are going to see this type of impact continue to roll out into other applications and areas of our lives. And so I do see that this would be used more for military applications. But I also do see this coming into the school setting. I could see a music teacher saying this is a great way to get more kids interested in the orchestra.
What would that feel like in a classroom to have students be the conductor of an orchestra? And then incorporate that into your curriculum to get kids to maybe want to travel to, you know, the symphony and be more engaged.
So I do see this opening up way other avenues that we haven't been able to touch on yet.
MONTAGNE: Mario, thank you for setting up shop here in our studio. Let's do that again soon.
ARMSTRONG: You're not really bad at tennis, either.
MONTAGNE: Mario Armstrong is a writer who tinkers with technology for MORNING EDITION.
INSKEEP: Ah, cheap flattery.
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