The Physics of the Move for PS3

Well, I finally got the Move for my husband's PS3. I bought the kit that comes with the video camera, light wand, and the sports champions game. I was excited to be getting something fun, interactive, and also teaches physics! Believe it or not?

First of all, the idea of getting physical while playing games takes you back to the days when physics was getting physical in pe class. You had to be fast to run for the ball, use force to kick it, and then have great impulse momentum for that ball to make it to the goal. In "Sports Champions" you get to play volleyball, ping pong ball, or bocce ball. The volleyball and ping pong ball interactions really show you how to overcome the inertia of a moving object by adding more force over a longer period of time (impulse momentum)...but of course you have to hit it. That hand-eye coordination is all about you reacting to the action; you want to have the mentality that, "For every action I see, I am ready for an opposite reaction that is quicker and tougher!" (relating to Newton's 3rd law). Because if you only equal your opponent, then you'll be defeated. That especially goes for the gladiator sport.

When I set up the wand controller, I had to "calibrate" it. In physics we talk about light waves and how they travel as wavelengths with frequency, but they also behave as particles of light energy. The calibration was so to capture the light waves and energy from the wand. That's how my actions would be recognized. Two things were important in calibrating: the camera had to be about 2.5 meters away and and the room couldn't be too bright (if it was, then the other light would drown out the wand). I also had to make sure not to swing the wand behind me...light won't be picked up, of course. But, I just got so excited swing my racket that I hit the blind spot many times and off the screen. Light is a major physics topic!

Let's say that as I played these games, I gained my own momentum (mass x speed)...I played faster and faster! The camera picked up that fast speed and calculated that as more force. But why? Well, impulse momentum is equal to Force x time. It is also equal to momentum which is mass x velocity. So, how are those two formulas related? If I move fast, then I move the wand a short distance in a short amount of time. We know that requires force, just like running fast because you have to overcome your own body's inertia (mass). Just like we have to use force to overcome gravity and move a resting object. So, the faster velocity was related to my action in a shorter amount of time, and hence more force. The computer gives me more force throwing the disc in the frisbee golf or more force when I'm serving the volleyball; important in winning the game!

But technically-speaking, archery poorly displayed the "Conservation of Momentum" for inelastic collisions (where the mass of a moving object that collides with another object will maintain momentum after collision by slowing down or changing direction). It was on the challenge level of "target shooting targets with wheels that would get closer to your opponent." When the target on wheels was hit by my arrow, it moved the target away from me toward the opponent. Now, the target is much heavier than my little arrow, so realistically the arrow hitting the target wouldn't have caused that much change in speed, but it would cause the arrow to stop. The overall change in both objects speed for a collision where the objects stick is generally in the direction of the object with the greater momentum. m1v1i + m2v2i = (m1 + m2)vf where vi=initial speed and vf=final speed.

Playing frisbee golf was very realistic. Newton's 1st law, the "law of inertia" again because the disk would remain at rest until I picked it up. The more force I put into throwing the disk, the faster it would go or accelerate.. Therefore demonstrating Newton's second law, that "acceleration is in the direction of net force." And, the third law was demonstrated when I twisted my wrist and threw; the disc ended up curving. That's a hard trick to learn though! If you can relate to any other physics from playing Sports Champions, please comment!


Maria P.

Physics-Chemistry-Math general-Writing-Career Development

20+ hours
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