Before I hear people saying I'm trying to turn their families into couch potatoes, let me say now that I much prefer outdoor moving around games to ones played in front of a screen. But as winter comes upon us, some days it not only better, but safer to stay indoors.
What has been very good is the creation of video games that actually engage people more than just their fingers and thumbs on the controllers.
Nintendo's Wii system introduced the first commercially successful gaming system that got people out of their chairs and involved with the games. While its video wasn't up to the high definition that many of us now take for granted, the games are very successful in a broad range of ages and interests.
For example, the Wii system has exercise games for all age levels and has sports games crossing a similar broad spectrum of people.
This year, Sony released the "Move" add-on for its PlayStation 3 device. The Move controllers are similar to the Wii in that they're wireless, but they have an optical aspect and include a small camera that watches you move and play. To identify the different controllers, the Move controllers have a colored light on top the size of a ping pong ball that turns a color when connected to the PlayStation.
The Move system is still quite new and has very few games, but expect quite a few just in time for the holiday season.
The latest entrant into the move-around-the-room gaming space is Microsoft's Kinect for Xbox 360. Instead of having controllers that you hold, the Kinect actually watches you move with a number of lenses that track your motion and even recognize your face.
Each one of these systems has created a new way to play.
Right now, these systems tend to focus on sports and activities that require significant motor skills. And, on a cold, wintry day, these can be great fun.
I fully expect that as we see these technologies in consumer electronics, we'll see many other uses, say to teach a skill such as knitting, SCUBA diving, driver training and more.
I even expect at one point, these could be used to help you assemble that Ikea bookshelf that you just bought or help would-be-Santas assemble the toys on Christmas Eve.
If the weather outside is yucky, one of these game machines can make the day a bit brighter. But if the weather is good, nothing beats a wonderful day of running around outside.
Mark Mathias, a 30-plus year veteran of information technology and a resident of Westport, Connecticut, was named by Computerworld magazine to their inaugural list of “Premier 100 IT Leaders.” This column was originally published in the Westport News on Wednesday 10 November 2010.