Wiimote Whiteboard

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Well, it's been all over the net for a couple of years now so I figured it was about time to jump on the bandwagon. If you haven't heard, you can use a Wiimote, the controller from a Nintendo Wii, as the heart of an interactive whiteboard. The whole technology was developed by Johnny Chung Lee.

Basically, the Wiimote has a camera in the front that looks for infrared light sources. When used with a Wii the IR lights are positioned atop your TV and the Wiimote "sees" where the lights are relative to the camera. When used as a whiteboard we reverse the set up. The camera (Wiimote) is kept stationary and the IR light moves. All the Wiimote does is look for relative motion. It doesn't really matter which moves, the IR light or the camera. The Wiimote communicates what it "sees" with the Wii through Bluetooth. Yes, the same Bluetooth that phones and computers use.

Anyway, I tried about a year ago with a Wiimote I borrowed from a student, but I wasn't able to find enough time during the school day to make it work. Since that time I've gotten my own Wii. A couple weeks ago we had a snow day, so I thought I'd give it a try. About three minutes later I was done!!! Apparently things are much easier now.

I didn't have an IR pen light yet, so I used a regular remote control (for a TV/DVD player or whatever). A remote works for proof of concept, but you can't use it to write. Remotes actually flash the IR light when in use, so at best you get a dotted line.

Bluetooth

So far I've only had to learn about bluetooth issues on the Windows side. The only Macs I've been able to play with have been MacBooks that have built in bluetooth. I guess what I'm saying is that if you have a Mac then just skip this section.

The entire wiimote project has been user developed. This means where there's been problems the person who solved it typically solved it for their own specific computer. Many have then shared what they learned on the net. However, some of the collected knowledge is obsolete. Below is what I know as of today, 22 April 2009.

The first thing you should do is make sure your computer has all the Windows updates. Specifically you I recommend you have at least WinXP Service Pack 2 or Vista Service Pack 1. If you're not sure if this is you, right-click on "My Computer" (or "Computer" in Vista) and select "Properties". A window should open up with some information about your computer. It will tell you what version of Windows you're running and what your latest Service Pack is.

Before buying a usb bluetooth adapter you should consult the list of known working bluetooth adapters. Others might work, but if you're buying a new one why not make sure to get one that is know to work?

Bluetooth Stacks

As near as I can figure a Bluetooth Stack is a communication protocol that the bluetooth device and adapter use to communicate. There are about a half dozen different protocols in use today. This is important because the programs that have been created to allow the computer to see the wiimote were written with specific bluetooth stacks in mind. Meaning that just because one program works with your wiimote does not mean that all programs will work.

I typically use the bluetooth stack that is built into windows. This allows me to use Wiimote Connect, but does not allow me to use the Java Wiimote Whiteboard. If you want this option than you should simply plug in your USB adapter and let Windows find it and install the drivers and DO NOT put in the disk that came with the adapter. The process is relatively painless. This begs the question of why you might want to do it any other way.

There are two potential reasons. The first is that Windows might not recognize your adapter and you need the drivers on the disk. Secondly, if you plan on doing a lot of other stuff with bluetooth then you might want to install the software and stack that came with the adapter. It is typically easier to add new devices with whatever software they packaged with your adapter rather than the windows stack.

Hardware

  • Wiimote - Just a standard Wiimote. If you have a Wii you have one already, it will still work with your Wii, so don't worry.
  • Bluetooth adapter - Most work, if you want to check the list of compatible adapters. I recommend the IOGear USB Micro Adapter.It is so tiny you can put it in and never really have to worry about taking it out. I've tried it with both WinXP and Vista.
  • IR LED Pen - You need a really bright IR LED to make this work. I had a bunch of IR LEDs laying around, but only one that was bright enough to be usable. The one that was recommended by Johnny Lee is the Vishay Semiconductors TSAL6400 ($0.30 from Mouser). I got some and they work great.

IR LED Pen

There are several options. I typically build my own, but many people find this a bit daunting. There are several sources for these online, I haven't bought stuff from the ones I list below, however. If you do please let me know how it went, good or bad. John Sowash at the Electric Educator blog did a review of some IR pens, you might want to check it out.

Build your own:

Buy one:

Initial Set-Up

Do this the first time you try to get your wiimote working with your computer.
  1. Make sure Windows is up to date.
  2. If needed: Plug in your bluetooth adapter and wait for Windows to install the drivers.
  3. Download the programs listed in the download section below.
  4. For Windows make sure you install .Net 3.5 or later.
  5. Install your software.
  6. Grab your Wiimote and get ready
  7. Connect your wiimote to the computer. I use Wiimote Connect, but you can add the wiimote like you'd add any other bluetooth device. On the Mac side just run the program you want to use. The Mac programs I've used so far have a button to click that will look for and connect the wiimote for you or the program starts looking for a wiimote as soon as you launch it.
  8. I then load up Wiimote Analyzer to see if it's working. This is easier than loading up a whiteboard app as I don't have to get out of my chair. Wiimote Analyzer is a program for recording data from the accelerometer. It's really only useful for physics teachers. For Mac I use DarwinRemote for this.

Whiteboard Set-Up

Wiimote Placement/Mounting

This will depend on the layout of your room. I've seen a number of different options. Ideally you want it close to the screen. The closer it is the more accurate the tracking will be. Typically I position the wiimote high and to the side. And by the side, I mean the side opposite the one I stand on while writing. This will insure I won't block the line of sight of the wiimote. The wiimote must "see" the screen, and the pen you're using.

The wiimote, screen, and projector must remain stationary. Otherwise you'll have to recalibrate. The wiimote can be mounted upside down, which means you can still poke the buttons without taking it down or climbing on top of a table.
  • Originally I put my wiimote on top of my projector. This worked well as far as seeing the screen and tracking, but it was very difficult to get to in order to turn it on in the morning.
  • Currently I use a stick with a rare-earth magnet that I can stick to the grid work holding up the drop ceiling. This is useful because I can take it to any room in my building.
  • I've considered velcroing it to the projector. This would work and I'd still be able to get to the buttons.
  • Penteractive sells a cool bracket thing for drop ceiling mount.
  • John Sowash over at the Electric Educator recommends a telescoping Microphone stand.

Morning Setup

Here's my routine for days I use my interactive board. It takes less than two minutes to run through.
  1. Connect the projector to my computer and get it working first. (important, trust me)
  2. Windows: Interface your wiimote with your computer.
  3. Run your whiteboard software. (on the Mac it connects to the wiimote at this point)
  4. Position the Wiimote.
  5. Calibrate the display using the four point calibration that is built into the whiteboard software.
  6. If the first point works perfectly, but the second point never appears it's probably because you set up the wiimote software prior to attaching the projector. 

      Stuff to Download

      Mac OS X

      I have a MacBook, so naturally I got started with it. It has built in Bluetooth. I downloaded some free software and followed the directions. Really the longest phase was the downloading (which really didn't take that long).

      Mac Links:

      • The Main Software: There are a couple different OS X options, but this one seems to be the popular one. It's the only one I've tried and I've had no reason to try anything else.
      • Magic Pen: Free program that allows you to write/draw on the screen. It takes a little getting used to to use this seamlessly in class, but not too much.
      • DarwinRemote: Not needed, but you may want it. This allows you to use the Wiimote as an "air mouse". It will also log data from the 3-axis accelerometer that's built in. Really a must for a physics teacher.

      Windows XP/Vista

      My school is about 98% Windows so I've spent a little time figuring out how to use the whole system on Windows as well. I've done this in WinXP and Vista. I have no idea how well it works in Windows 7. The first thing to know is that you need .Net 3.5 or later. You should install that first.

      Windows Links:

      • Wiimote Connect: This is a must. With the Windows Stack you seem to have to re-add the Wiimote every time you set it up. That means you have to remove the old entry for the Wiimote from the stack and then find it again. Wiimote Connect does this for you automatically. You can also set it up to launch another program for you once it connects. However, it doesn't seem to be compatible with all Bluetooth devices/drivers.
      • Smoothboard: There are many different windows options. This one seems to work best for me. But, if Wiimote Connect doesn't work then you may have to set up your Wiimote manually each time you use it.
      • If Wiimote Connect doesn't work with your Bluetooth adapter then you may want to try java Wiimote Whiteboard. It is very easy to use, but I when I put it on an older laptop I couldn't use Linktivity Presenter to write on the screen. It wouldn't run on one computer I tried it on (luckily, Wiimote Connect does).
      • LinktivityPresenter: Free program that gives you tools to write/draw on the screen. It will also save a screen shot with a simple onscree button push.
      • Wiimote Analyzer: Again, you really only need this if you teach physics. You must be a member of Wiimote Project to see the download link.

      Recommendations/Troubleshooting

       You should also check out and join the Wiimote Project. This site is a great resource for resolving any trouble you may have.

      Set up

      • Wiimote need's to "see" the whole screen
      • Closer is better. Most programs have some way of showing you how much of the potential tracking area you're using. More is always better.
      • Can be mounted upside down. I do this in my room.
      • Should be placed so that you don't block it while you're using it
      • I usually place it high and to the side (this depends on handedness), although I've also had good luck with it sitting directly on top of my ceiling mounted projector.

      Troubleshooting

      • Check the battery in your IR Pen. Any digital camera will work. I usually use the one on my phone. Just point the LED at the camera and push the button. You should be able to see the IR light from the LED in the camera's display. This is also a good way to check your TV or DVD player remote.
      • Bluetooth issues of any kind? I've had good luck when I keep the lights flashing on my wiimote during to whole setup process. If they stop flashing, just poke buttons 1&2 again. Occasionally I have to run through the set-up twice to get it all to work.
      • Calibration problem - First calibration point works, but the second one never shows up? This can happen if you set up the wiimote and then set up the projector. It happens when the computer changes the screen resolution to match the projector. To solve this: Set up your projector first and then set up your wiimote.
      • In Windows XP, it worked the first time you tried and now won't work at all? You have to remove the Wiimote from the bluetooth stack and re-add it each time you set it up. Easiest way to solve this, download and use Wiimote Connect.
      • Can't get bluetooth to work at all - Look at the list of known working bluetooth adapters and see if yours is on it. There may also be some notes telling you how to get yours working.

      Fun Stuff

      So you've got your interactive white board. Now What?
      • TI-83 Emulator - This is a great way to teach students how to use their calculators. You'll need a link cable to the computer the first time you use this, but after that you don't.
      • Phun - 2D Physics Sandbox. I call it the poor man's Interactive Physics.
      • PhET - These are great simulations whether you have an interactive whiteboard or not.
      • World of Goo - Fun game for Wii, Windows, Mac, or Linux. It is not free, but you can download the demo
      • Crayon Physics - I haven't tried this one yet, but if your computer will run it, it's supposed to be really good. (Windows only, not free so try the demo first)
      • Auditorium - Puzzle game that is almost a bit of vector addition. But mainly it's just fun to play. Free demo online or you can buy a download and get a lot more levels.
      • Gravity - Launch your rocket and try to hit the earth. Seems like I saw a version of this that ran as flash on the web, but I can't find it right now.
      Ċ
      Steve Dickie,
      Apr 22, 2009, 7:27 AM
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