Metrology Careers Blog

Careers in measurement science.

Modern Marvels – Video Gaming 03/08/2011

Filed under: Modern Marvels — admin @ 12:03 pm

iStock_000008889390XSmallVideo games have come a long way since they were first introduced in the early 1970s. Over the years, primitive coin operated games such as Pong, developed by Atari in 1972, eventually led to the Play Station, X-Box and internet-based multiplayer games such as World of Warcraft and Halo. Although the game playing experience of today’s games is dramatically different from those of yesteryear, they all have something in common. At their heart, they’re all computer programs dependent on highly accurate programming and production standards.

Computer games can be thrilling and feature beautiful graphics. However, none of that would work if the computer’s programs weren’t designed with the highest quality and reproducibility. But it’s not just the code that has to work. Some games require amazingly complex mathematics to do things such as calculating the physics of how objects in the game react to one another, rendering objects to look realistic and even communicating with other computers on the Internet.

With the introduction of WiFi communications, gamers can connect to the Internet within a range of wireless networks on their laptop computers, mobile phones and iPads. Digital meters help gamers determine the signal and power strength of their connection. The higher the decibels (dBm) on a transmitter, the stronger the signal strength. Low signals around -84 or -96dBm on receivers is usually the threshold at which point the signal is no longer detectable in consumer WiFi. So, a lower rating means a more sensitive receiver, being able to receive and decode weaker signals.

A video game based almost entirely on tracking measurements is “Wii Fit.” The interactive game comes with the Wii Balance Board, which is a wireless board that senses small shifts in posture and weight placement so that an onscreen character mimics your movements. The Balance Board, which resembles a bathroom scale, has gyroscopic technology and multiple sensors built into it. Gyroscopic technology measures shifts in weight based on the conversion of angular momentum. Angular momentum measures the extent to which an object rotating around a reference point will continue to do so until acted upon by some outside force. The onboard sensors estimate the value of a user”s body mass index (a proxy for human body fat based on an individual”s weight and height) and center of gravity (spatial orientation.) Weight is not an absolute as it is relative to local gravitational fields. For example, an object with a mass of one kilogram and of a weight of 9.8 (N) or Newton’s on the surface of the Earth, is about six times less on the Moon.

The Wii Balance Board goes beyond simply calculating your body mass index; it also tracks your overall progress in terms of your fitness age. A person”s Wii fitness age is calculated by factoring his or her body mass index, performance during balance tests and overall center of gravity. Many players find that tracking their progress makes “Wii Fit” more fun to play. Users want to be as fit as possible in the eyes of the game so that, like in any other video game, they can claim to be the best. The game is also designed to inspire players into setting personal goals, which help them stick to their “Wii Fit” exercise routines. Without Metrology, your favorite video games couldn’t exist.

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