Using Arduino to connect LEDs and Buttons to Balance Board readings with Matlab

I have never used Arduino before and want to make sure it will work for this project. I am designing a project where a user will be standing on a Wii balance board. There will be a panel in front of them with LEDs and buttons. An LED will turn red and the user will have to shift their weight toward the side with that LED. Once the weight shift is complete, the LED will turn green and they can press the button under the LED. If they hit the button before the weight shift is complete (when the LED is red), they will not complete the task.

I currently have the Wii balance board and am able to get readings from it using Matlab. From the research I have done, it seems like I should be able to use an Arduino as a microcontroller to interact with Matlab to control the LEDs and get input from the buttons. I have never used an Arduino personally though, so I want to make sure I get the right materials. I have a few, more specific questions below.

Is an Arduino the correct tool for this project? If so, is there a certain one that will work better for me than the others? What kind of materials would you recommend for this project? I have done some basic bread board work, but does the Arduino need other materials besides just the buttons and LEDs? Does the Arduino simply plug into a USB port on the computer? Will I be able to send and receive information from it using Matlab this way?

Thanks for any help you can give. Feel free to ask any questions if you need more information about the project. As a new user, any help or guidance will be appreciated.

soper103:
Is an Arduino the correct tool for this project?

It is good at reading the state of buttons, controlling LEDs, and does USB serial communication to a PC, so yes, it's the correct tool.

If so, is there a certain one that will work better for me than the others?

If you have a lot of buttons then you might want something with more I/O pins. The Uno is the usual recommended starting point and has 20 I/O pins. You might be able to arrange something more efficient, but a single two color LED would require 2 I/O pins and a single push button would require 1 I/O pin. With the Uno you could have 6 buttons and 6 LEDs in a straightforward approach.

What kind of materials would you recommend for this project? I have done some basic bread board work, but does the Arduino need other materials besides just the buttons and LEDs?

You'll need buttons, LEDs, resistors, and wiring material. See Tutorial/Button and Tutorial/Blink for basic examples.

Does the Arduino simply plug into a USB port on the computer?

Yes. The program is loaded from the development system to the Arduino via the USB and the USB can be used for bidirectional communication between the Arduino and a host program on the PC.

Will I be able to send and receive information from it using Matlab this way?

Yes, Matlab supports serial communication.

Thank you for your reply, I really appreciate it.