How Do the Motion-Sensor Controls for the Nintendo Wii Work?

How Do the Motion-Sensor Controls for the Nintendo Wii Work?

The Nintendo Wii is a seventh-generation console first released in 2006. The console was considered advanced at the time, in part because of a pointing device that detects movement in three dimensions. It uses a sensor bar and a Wii remote that work together to allow gamers to move around and almost literally "become" the controller. The positioning of the sensor bar is of utmost importance when playing the Wii. Failure to position it correctly means that the remote cannot work correctly and the cursor placement may be off center. The following sections discuss how the motion-sensor control works and how to position the sensor to get the most out of the system. This guide also explains at how to purchase high quality motion-sensor controls and sensor bars at affordable prices.    

Motion-Sensor Controls

The motion-sensor controls for the Nintendo Wii allow users much more freedom when playing games. The advantages it has over a standard wireless control pad mostly revolve around response time and pointer accuracy. The controller and motion-sensor bar react very quickly. Using the controller lets the user quickly move from one side of the screen to the other with only a flick of the wrist. The motion-sensor bar is also very accurate and intuitive: The pointer moves precisely as would be expected. Moreover, games such as boxing or tennis are no longer a passive, couch-based entertainment. can give The user actually enjoys a cardiovascular workout. Experts have shown that playing an energetic game on the Nintendo Wii provides excellent exercise that burns calories and fat. A variety of games designed to simulate a workout routine or dance class are also available. Lastly, the motion-sensor remote is very easy to use. It allows non-gamers to pick up the remote and begin playing without having to learn complicated controls.

Wii MotionPlus

The MotionPlus was released in 2009. The device is an extension of the controller and offers a much more accurate range of motion. The MotionPlus extension fits onto a normal Wii remote and allows the gamer to experience true 1:1 motion. This means that however much the gamer moves the remote, the cursor or character on the screen moves the same amount. It has both dual-axis and single-axis gyroscopes, which both interact with the sensor bar to distinguish true linear motion and rotation. This lets the gamer produce more accurate,  more complex movements than with the standard Wii remote alone. The device extends the length of the controller by 1.5 inches. The MotionPlus sensor can only be used in conjunction with games specifically designed for it, and it cannot be used in conjunction with certain accessories and peripherals (e.g. the Wii wheel and the Guitar Hero controller). Some controllers now have MotionPlus built into the Wii remote. 

How Does the Wii Sensor Bar Work?

The sensor bar used in conjunction with the controllers uses infrared technology, the same wireless communications system found in most television remotes. The bar emits two infrared beams that are picked up by the Wii remotes. The infrared information is then sent via Bluetooth to the console, which then processes the information received to determine the position of the remotes in relation to the beams being transmitted from the infrared bar.

 Positioning of the Sensor Bar

The sensor bar must be positioned correctly to properly receive instructions from the Wii remote. The sensor bar may be positioned either above or below the television. Whichever position is chosen, the sensor bar must be centered in relation to the television. The sensor bar is secured in place using foam pads located on the bottom of the sensor. Sensor bar settings must match the sensor’s position, whether above or below the television. To adjust the setting, select the Wii "Settings"  icon located in the lower left corner of the Wii menu. Select the icon labelled "Position," and choose whether the sensor bar is above or below the television.

The controllers only work when the sensor bar is between three and eight feet away. The sensitivity can be altered using the "Sensor Bar" icon under Wii "Settings" in the main menu. When standing in front of the television, adjust the sensitivity until only two lights are clearly shown on the screen. The farther away from the screen the player intends to stand, the higher the sensitivity level required.

The remotes can be calibrated at any time during a game. To do this, press the "Synchro" button underneath the flap on the Wii console, and then press the red button beneath the battery flap of the Wii remote. Only one Wii remote can be calibrated at a time.

The sensor bar may need angling up or down, depending whether the top of the television is flat or angled. If the front of the television slopes forward, the sensor bar can be angled upward using extra sticky pads to ensure that it interacts properly with the remote controllers.

Sources of bright light (e.g. candles, lamps, or space heaters) may interfere with the sensor bar’s ability to receive a signal from the Wii remote. can all cause interference.

Communication between the Wii remote and the sensor bar may be improved by using a sensor bar stand. This is especially useful if the television sits near the ground. Using a stand lifts the sensor and can improve controller responsiveness.

When two players use the Wii, both remotes must be synced correctly. The players must stand at least 3 feet apart in order to move around without fear of injury. Players should make sure they have enough room to move around without hitting the other player. Also, the Wii remotes are fitted with a strap which should be looped around the wrist to prevent it from slipping from a player’s grasp and causing injury or household damage.

The chart below summarizes placement and setup of the motion-sensor bar, and explains where the users should be positioned during Nintendo Wii gameplay.

System Setup


Bar Location

Above or below the television; bar should be held firmly in place

Bar Positioning

Centered with regard to the TV

Single Player Positioning

Between three and eight feet away from the sensor bar; remote can be calibrated to achieve the the most accurate level of gameplay

Multiple Player Position

Players must have enough room to swing remotes around safely; remote can be re calibrated if the player is standing further back from the sensor bar than when playing other games. 

Angling the Bar

The angle of the sensor bar can be raised using sticky pads if the television slopes forwards and prevents the remotes being able to connect to the sensor bar

Purchasing a Wii Remote, Sensor Bar, and Wii Console on eBay

Wii remotes and sensor bars can be purchased in many department stores, as well as in most computer stores and specialty electronics retailers.  For the largest selection of new and used items, however, buyers should also consider shopping online.  Wii remotes, sensors, and consoles can be found by the hundreds on auction sites like eBay. When purchasing electronics equipment on eBay, it is important to read the description carefully. Make sure the items are in good working order, and examine any provided photographs to ascertain that the items do not display any signs of damage or misuse.  Wii consoles and remotes are region specific, which means that consoles will only work in the country of original sale. If the item does not state the item’s region, ask sellers if they can provide you with that information.

Motion-sensor controls can be found on eBay in the Electronics or the Entertainment filter located on the eBay homepage.

Choosing a Reputable eBay Seller

Choosing a reputable seller on eBay can help to ensure a straightforward transaction when purchasing a motion-sensor control or sensor bar on eBay. The feedback score of a seller can give a buyer a indication of whether the transaction will be satisfactory. Previous buyers leave feedback on a seller’s profile, indicating whether their shopping experience was positive, negative, or neutral. Sellers with a high percentage of positive feedback are more likely to great service and quality merchandise than are those who have a poor feedback score.


The sensor bar on the Nintendo Wii must be set up correctly to get the most of the Wii gaming experience. Failing to do so can result in the user having trouble aiming or positioning the cursor correctly.  The sensor bar should be centered in relation to the TV, and should be located either above or below the set.  The console settings must be adjusted accordingly. Players should stand between three and eight feet away from the motion-sensor. Otherwise, the sensor bar may be unable to recognize the controller. Players also need to allow enough space to safely play the game. Many games involve broad arm movements, which can be dangerous in a confined area. Once the sensor bar is positioned and synced correctly, users can enjoy playing interactive games that are not only a lot of fun, but which also help players keep fit and active.

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