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.
- 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.
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.