How the Wii Balance Board Works

Wii Balance Board History

It all began in Shigeru Miyamoto's bathroom. Miyamoto, one of Nintendo's most prolific game designers, had been weighing himself -- a lot. You could even say that it had become something of a hobby. Every day, without fail, he would step onto his bathroom scale and meticulously record his weight and body fat on a graph. Many months (and graphs) later, Miyamoto and his colleagues began working on a new project, named "Health Pack," that combined his weight-measuring concept with a number of family-friendly activities [source: Iwata: Wii Fit]. This was in 2004. Three years later, when it was announced at E3, it had been renamed "Wii Fit."

With the idea of a game centered on measuring one's balance now fleshed out, Miyamoto's team set out to accomplish the most challenging aspect of the project: designing an intuitive, user-friendly interface. Luckily, the solution already seemed to be staring them in the face. Drawing inspiration from Miyamoto's bathroom routine, Takao Sawano, the project's lead designer, began experimenting with two scales, setting them side by side and trying to balance on both evenly [source: Romano]. (The idea to use two scales came to him after watching sumo wrestlers weigh themselves, because they are too heavy to use only one.) Pleased with the initial results, Miyamoto asked him to connect the scales to a computer and display the weight data onscreen -- this somewhat crude setup eventually formed the basis for "Wii Fit's" balance test.

After several rounds of troubleshooting during which they ran through a few different-shaped prototypes, the team finally settled on a rectangular, step aerobics-like design equipped with load sensors to allow for greater accuracy [source: Casamassina]. In the interest of keeping costs down, the design team had originally intended for the board to be connected to the Wii Remote, through which it would wirelessly communicate with the console. Worried that users might accidentally step onto the remote or trip over it, the cord was nixed from the final model [source: Iwata: Board]. And thus the Wii Balance Board was born.

Next, we'll take a look under the hood, so to speak, and see just how accurate its measurements really are.