Saturday, February 21, 2009

Wiimote Interactive Whiteboard

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.

Warning, Science Content:
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.
End Science Content

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.

Here's what I've learned:

You should set your screen resolution to no more than 1024x768. This is the resolution of the camera in the Wiimote. You should also check out and join the Wiimote Project. This site is a great resource for resolving any trouble you may have.

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 recommeded by Johnny Lee is the Vishay Semiconductors TSAL6400 (I got mine for $0.30 from Mouser). You can buy commercial pens or find instructions on the net to make your own. So far I've only made my own.

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).

  • The Main Software: There are a couple different OS X options, but this one seems to be the popular one.
  • Magic Pen: Free program that allow you to write/draw on the screen. It takes a little getting used to to use this seemlessly 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 - 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 have no idea how well it works in Vista or Windows 7. The first thing to know is that you need .Net 3.5 or later. You should install that first.

  • Wiimote Connect: This is a must. In Windows 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 cal also set it up to launch another program for you once it connects.
  • Smoothboard: There are many different windows options. So far this is the only one I've played with and it seems to work.
  • 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.
OK, I've rambled enough. I guess I will do another blog post explaining how to set it all up in your classroom. If you have a Wii and want to give this a try all the links you'll need should be above. You may also need a Bluetooth adapter if you don't have it built into your computer. I've read that not all Bluetooth adapters work, so you may want to check out the Wiimote Project prior to picking one up.

If you're in Michigan you may also want to attend the 2009 meeting of the Michigan Association for Computer Users in Learning. John Sowash will be giving a presentation on his use of the Wiimote Whiteboard in his classroom.


step_on_celine said...

An update to you that Smoothboard is now available in autoconnect function using just MS Bluetooth Stack. Have fun in trying!

Anonymous said...

I want share with you a free program to be used with interactive whiteboard

Ardesia enables you to make colored free-hand annotations on your computer screen, record it and share on the network.

This is especially useful when making presentations, to highlight things or point out things of interest.

The tool facilitates the online presentations and demos showing in real time your computer screen to anyone in the network.

Ardesia is XInput-Aware, so if you have a mouse, a graphic tablet, a touch screen, a wiimote whiteboard or a commercial whiteboard; you can draw lines with different strength, select color, erase things and draw arrows.

You can free-hand draw geometrical shapes using the shape recognizer, insert text with the keyboard and highlight screen areas. You can draw upon the desktop or select an image as background.

alpha said...

Ardesia 0.4 is out!

Ardesia allows to draw and sketchup everywhere

The binary package is released for Ubuntu Lucid and Windows 7
you can use Ardesia with all the linux flavours, the source code
is free and released under the GPL terms

You can use it with a wiimote whiteboard or a graphic tablet;
in this way the lines are writing lighter or darker depending on
the pen pressure

You can export your work in the pdf format to create simple presentation, tutorial or document

Ardesia allow to record and the stream on icecast streaming server
thanks to the vlc media player and streamer

...Ardesia is free and simple as you are; Try it now!

alpha said...

WiildOs 1.3.2 is out,
WiildOs is an educational live and installable GNU/Linux distro build
from the Ardesia stuff and thinking for teaching purposes. It includes
the software that enable you to use a wiimote whiteboard.

WiildOs includes lubuntu-desktop, python-whiteboard, ardesia, sankore,
spotlighter, curtain, florence-ramble, wmgui, wiican, easystroke,
whyteboard, vmg, shutter, gimp, tuxpaint, tuxmath, tuxtype, dia,
scribus, audacity, stellarium, xournal, gcompris, geogebra, wxmaxima,, jokosher, musescore, solfege, stellarium, dasher,
eviacam and more!

More info on

Build a wiildOs4win wubi like installer that allow to install wiildOs
inside windows without partitioning the hard disk.

- new kernel 2.6.35; this add the support to some new devices including
the toshiba bluettoth
- thunderbird in now the default mailer instead of sylpheed
- firefox is the default browser instead of chromium
- removed xscreensaver for performance issue
- remove all the gnome office suite; we use openoffice suite
- fix the wiican program; now you can you use the wiimote as controller
usinf the infrared camera or the accelerometers in a visual user
friendly way