We got a WiiFit, and a Wii, for Christmas in 2008, and for me, at that time, it was just what I needed to lose an extraordinary amount of weight. As part of the daily weighing-in routine it offers a set of challenges to your mental and physical agility. This is a pair drawn from, in the original release, five exercises. One is the Balance Test, measuring whether you can shift a certain percentage of your weight to the left or right and hold it for three seconds; the balance board, used for each of these tests, measures how much of your weight is where, left or right, front or back of the board. One is the Steadiness Test, about how still you can stand for thirty seconds and is trickier than it looks. (Breathe slowly, is my advice.) One is the Single Leg balance Test, trying to keep your balance within a certain range of centered for thirty seconds (and the range narrows at ten, twenty, and twenty-five seconds in). One — the most fun — is the Agility Test, in which you swing your body forward and back, left and right to hit as many targets as possible. And the most agonizing of them is the Walking Test, which is simply to take twenty footfalls, left and right, and which reports back how incredibly far from balanced your walk is. The game almost shakes its head and sighs, at least, at how imbalanced *I* am.

The games are randomly drawn, rather than rotating or being user-selectable, since if the user could the user would always pick the Balance Test and the Agility Test, with *maybe* the Steadiness Test for lazy-feeling mornings. But that means there’s a chance of getting the dread Walking Test.

About a year later Nintendo came out with WiiFitPlus, which expands the number of activities in the exercise portion and divided the weighing-in mental and physical agility tests into two sets. The first set of five is the same “classic” set, and the first of the two tests is drawn randomly from them. The second test comes from a new set of five. Easiest is the Dual Balance Test, which adds turning the hand controller to the correct orientation as well as shifting your weight to the left or the right. The Judgement Test has you start from center, and puts a number on the screen. You’re to shift your weight so as to move your center of balance to that number’s position, if the number meets some test — if, say, you’re told to select numbers greater than 6, and the number is 8 — or to stay still if it fails the test — if, say, you’re told to select numbers less than 4, and the number is 7. (This takes longer to describe than to figure out while playing.) The Memory Test probably actually is the most active test of mental agility, as it presents a series of numbers, concealing more of them, and you have to shift based on whether the designated number is greater or less than the one before. The Peripheral Vision test tosses the digits 1 through 10 up on the board and you “shoot” them with the remote in ascending order, with the twist that if your balance gets too far from center the numbers vanish. This one’s also fun.

The last, and worst, is the Prediction Test. You’re presented with a series of obstacles, some of them moving, some of them obscured, and have to slide left to right to avoid the targets and also the left and right walls of the playing field. It maybe isn’t the most challenging in principle, but it’s certainly the longest — 60 seconds long, unless you do it wrong, which ought to in principle be impossible because the targets and their motions are the same on every run — and it’s a saddening moment for me at least to find the WiiFit has chosen that one for the second exercise of the day.

So here’s a question I want to throw out for the interested reader. There was always some chance that on the original WiiFit I’d get the unliked Walking Test, either as the first or the second exercise of the day. On WiiFitPlus, the Walking Test can only come up as the first exercise, but there’s the chance of the Prediction test coming up as the second exercise. Supposing that each of the tests is equally likely to come up, and that on WiiFit no test can come up twice, then: did the WiiFitPlus make things better or worse? Am I more, less, or equally likely to get an unwanted test with the two sets of five tests each, or the one set of five tests drawn from twice?

My big problems with WiiFit (that continues into WiiFit Plus) are that it uses the BMI as a diagnostic, rather than classification, tool, and also it only looks at single-day deltas rather than long-term trends when it comes to the weigh-in feedback. Doesn’t matter if you’ve lost 20 pounds over the last 3 months – as soon as your weight levels off and you gain 0.1 pounds, suddenly it’s admonishing you for being a snack-consuming fatass. And of course it defaults to showing you your BMI value, which is basically worthless.

Mostly I like it for the yoga exercises. I only do the “quick check” mode because the daily tests are pretty bad in general. The walking test in particular seems to be very very badly-programmed, and seems to look at the first two steps as the trend for the rest of the test, as opposed to looking at the overall things and discarding the outliers (and the first steps will ALWAYS be outliers, because physics).

For my daily weigh-in I just use a body fat measuring scale, and I store the values into a gnuplot data file that I occasionally graph. It tells me MUCH more useful stuff than Wii Fit ever could. My gnuplot script looks like this:

`set xdata time`

set timefmt "%Y-%m-%d"

plot "weight.dat" using 1:2 title "Total weight" with points lc 1, \

"weight.dat" using 1:2 smooth bezier notitle lc 1, \

"weight.dat" using 1:($2)*($3) with points title "Fat weight" lc 2 axis x1y1, \

"weight.dat" using 1:($2*$3) smooth bezier notitle lc 2 axis x1y1, \

(165) title "Target weight", \

"weight.dat" using 1:($2*.2) smooth bezier title "Target fat" axis x1y1

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As it happens, data-smoothing is one of the things I want to get to. I had a fine time teaching data processing a couple years back and I’ve still got most of my notes from it.

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I dislike WiiFit extremely for the reasons fluffy so eloquently identifies.

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The focus on mere daily weights, and the poor handling of minor weight fluctuations, aren’t good, no. I’m particularly annoyed that it admits weight fluctuations of two pounds are perfectly normal and then asks for causes for a weight gain of more than one pound.

I imagine that reflects the programmers assuming that people who use it are going to bother with it a couple days a week for maybe a month or two — there’s a lot of programming that suggests they don’t figure anyone’s going to use it for a whole ninety days — but the data is there and people can read it more smartly than the machine gathers.

It did work for me, but I’m well aware that I’m an extreme outlier and will warn anyone about that.

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At risk of spoiling, I think I know; the answer. A side-question is which method (if either) will give you more unliked exercises- assuming two might spoil your day worse than one.

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Go ahead, spoil. You can even do neat mathematical formatting using the LaTeX commands … start a segment with a $ mark followed by the word latex (with no space), and end with the $ again. And, yes, that’s just the sort of follow-up question I’d like to play with.

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