Wiimote controlled scary battle robots

The Wiimote vibrates when the remote robot comes across something of particular interest

We already know that there’s way more to Nintendo’s Wiimote controller than Super Monkey Ball and Mario Galaxy, but could hardly have guessed that it would find its way into the hands of the US military and its bomb-disposal robots.

According to New Scientist, engineers at the US Department of Energy have set to work teaching iRobot’s battlefield Packbot machine to play nicely with the white Wii controller.

Concentration problem

Their motivation stems from problems involving more traditional joypad controllers that make heavy demands on the concentration of soldiers operating the robot.

The upshot of focusing on simply directing the Packbot means operators have a tendency to miss vital information being fed back to them from the machine, which is where the Wiimote comes in.

Vibrating feedback

Apparently, the naturalistic three-dimensional gestures used by the Nintendo device make driving the gun- and sensor-toting robot considerably easier, which in turn frees up human brain power to concentrate on understanding the data it sends back.

The engineers have even programmed the Wiimote to vibrate when the remote robot comes across something of particular interest, such as a giant gold coin or a floating hand of bananas.

Next on their list is getting the Packbot’s video camera hooked up to an iPhone. Something tells us these guys have a lot of fun at work.

J Mark Lytle was an International Editor for TechRadar, based out of Tokyo, who now works as a Script Editor, Consultant at NHK, the Japan Broadcasting Corporation. Writer, multi-platform journalist, all-round editorial and PR consultant with many years' experience as a professional writer, their bylines include CNN, Snap Media and IDG.