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WE or Wii?
(Published: 2008-12-19)

The holidays are a time of giving and togetherness, a season of ‘we.’ We do for others, we share our bounty, we give our time to meaningful causes, and we spend quality time with friends and family.

For many families this year, however, ‘we” is more likely to mean Wii. Wii is the wildly successful, revolutionary game console from Nintendo that allows the player to interact with a virtual environment via a TV screen. You can play golf, perform in a rock band, even exercise, by manipulating a gyroscopic controller, called a Wii Remote.

Nintendo chose the name Wii (for Wireless interaction) because it’s easily remembered by everyone, no matter where they’re from or what language they speak. Also, Wii sounds like ‘we,’ emphasizing the fact that the console is for everyone, young and old alike. Nintendo’s ads may feature families and friends playing Wii together, but the reality is that the players are interacting with a virtual (made-up) environment--via a screen.

We live a great deal of our lives in the virtual realm. We email messages to friends, text our votes to American Idol, and consult GPS systems for directions, all on screens. We shop on line, play on line, bank on line, date on line and work remote on line, all via computer screens. Today, doctors can perform micro-neurosurgery on patients thousands of miles away, thanks to this advanced technology.

That makes for some interesting paradoxes. We may physically inhabit space on this planet, but all too often we are not really ‘here.’ As a result, we precariously straddle reality every day.

In the early days of TV, the virtual world of the television screen was a momentary escape from the real world. Now, channels are filled with “reality shows.” Today, we try to escape the pressures of our technologically advanced 24/7 world by reverting to ancient rituals, like meditation and silent retreats, in hopes of grounding ourselves, if only for a moment, in real time.

TV’s have indirectly contributed to soaring childhood obesity rates by helping turn our kids into couch potatoes. There’s hope, though. This year’s “Toy of the Year” is the Smart Cycle Physical Learning Arcade System by Fisher-Price, a stationary bike that’s an exercise activity, a learning center, and an arcade game, all rolled into one. The Smart Cycle plugs into your TV and takes your kids on virtual adventures. As they pedal, they are guided through learning discoveries, games, and exciting races—all via a TV screen.

Sony Electronics kicked off the season with the annual unveiling of its Sony Style store holiday windows. The elaborate product displays of VAIO computers, noise-canceling headphones, and digital cameras were all made of—chocolate! The stores also featured a holiday inspired scent, chocolate peppermint, wafting into the store and spilling out into the mall or street…..clearly an attempt to connect the virtual world to real world sensory experiences of taste and smell.

But the ultimate virtual reality item is the Graco SweetPeace Soothing Center for newborns. The high tech comfort center is designed to engage all five of baby’s senses. It rocks and swings, providing motion; an MP3 portal pipes in simulated womb sounds; touch is incorporated through super plush swaddling blankets that hold Mom’s scent. Oh, and “the 5-point harness provides gentle ventral pressure that reassures your baby like a hug.”

It makes you wonder where Mom is in the equation. I’m all for technology—couldn’t live without it. But please, when you’re out there shopping for virtual wonders this season, try to remember the REAL reason we come together to celebrate.

Let’s be WE this year.

Kids playing Wii.

SweetPeace Soothing Centher

Robyn Waters is president and founder of RW Trend, LLC. She is the author of The Trendmaster’s Guide: Get a Jump on What Your Customer Wants Next, and The Hummer and the Mini: Navigating the Contradictions of the New Trend Landscape. Learn more about Robyn at All Rights Reserved.

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