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Nintendo sleep sensor to take aim at 'quality of life'

The company unveils a new service that would monitor a person's sleep patterns and provide feedback on improving restfulness.

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Nintendo shows how its using new sensing technology to visualize sleep and fatigue. Nintendo

Nintendo has taken its first step toward improving "quality of life" with a new sleep sensor that would improve restfulness.

Nintendo chief Satoru Iwata on Thursday held his company's semi-annual corporate management policy briefing. While he spent much of his time discussing Nintendo's hardware and software, it was his mention of "redefining entertainment" that arguably provided the most insight into where he believes he can take the company in the coming years.

Nintendo's first step in that direction is the visualization of sleep and fatigue. Iwata outlined a plan in which his company would use sensing technology to analyze a person's sleep at night and then provide feedback each morning. That feedback would include ways to improve diet or habits in order to improve the lives of its users.

"All you have to do is place the QOL Sensor on your bedside," Iwata said. "Inside the QOL Sensor is a non-contact radio frequency sensor, which measures such things as the movements of your body, breathing and heartbeat, all without physically touching your body. This automatically gathered data will be transmitted to the QOL cloud servers, which will then analyze the data measured by the sensor and visually represent sleep and fatigue results."

While Iwata argues that there is no single solution for this in the marketplace, there are several tools either available now or coming that attempt to provide the same insight into sleep. A quick search of mobile application stores reveals a wide range of sleep-analysis tools. Beddit provides a sleep monitor that measures everything from heart rate to respiration to sleep cycles. Hello recently raised $2.4 million on Kickstarter for its Sense, which analyzes both the user and the environment in which they're sleeping.

At the core of Nintendo's technology are five "non sensing elements." According to Iwata, the sleeping device, which has not yet been unveiled, would be non-wearable and have no contact with the user's body. In addition, the sensor will work automatically, requiring no user input and results will be instant. The final "non" will not require users to install the product to get it working.

Nintendo is working with a US-based company named ResMed to develop its technology. According to Iwata, ResMed, which provides medical equipment for the treatment of sleep disorders, has provided the company with the "five 'non' sensing elements" envisioned as part of the project.

Looking ahead, Iwata provided no design details on the sensor nor when it might launch. He did, however, say that the information collected through the device would be shared not only with "dedicated video game systems" (ostensibly the Wii U and 3DS) but also "smart devices" like smartphones and tablets.

Nintendo did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Iwata's comments.