A good deal of constructive fun was had at 091 Labs in Galway last Tuesday when John Breslin, editor of Technology Voice, turned up to show us all how to make an interactive whiteboard from a Wii remote controller and a home-made infra-red pointer which in the end looked elegant enough despite liberal use of gaffer tape to keep the battery in its holder.
With the Wii controller and our funky little pointer thingy in our possession the next thing we needed was some code to provide the relevant instructions to the relevant devices.
This was obtained from Johnny Chung Lee. Here is the opening paragraph from his website for (for those who don’t follow the links) which gives some idea of what an important and versatile little gizmo the Wii controller is.
“Nintendo has sold nearly 30 million Wii game consoles. This significantly exceeds the number of Tablet PCs in use today according to even the most generous estimates of Tablet PC sales. This makes the Wii Remote one of the most common computer input devices in the world. It also happens to be one of the most sophisticated. It contains a 1024×768 infrared camera with built-in hardware blob tracking of up to 4 points at 100Hz. This significantly out performs any PC “webcam” available today. It also contains a +/-3g 8-bit 3-axis accelerometer also operating at 100Hz and an expandsion port for even more capability. These projects are an effort to explore and demonstrate applications that the millions of Wii Remotes in world readily support.”
After downloading, the code was transferred to the Wii remote by Bluetooth and we then set up a projector connected to a laptop running some version or other of Microsoft. ( Really, who cares?)
After a little fiddling around to calibrate the working space on the projected screen we were off.
I don’t know how long John spent building the pointer but start to finish; downloading the software to getting it going, took less then twenty minutes.
You can see the results here in this video or click on the image.
The most striking things about this endeavour was the cost and ease. A new controller costs less than £20.00 from Amazon. Detailed instructions with good pictures on how to make a pointer for less than $10.00 can be found here.
It was a cool evening but it did leave lingering questions such as to why do mainstream manufacturers charge so much for this technology? (Everything I have seen so far has been going out for four figure sums.) Why do education authorities pay so much for this technology? OK, the sub $10.00 pointers could be made somewhat sturdier but from Johnny Chung Lee’s account above and actually handling the device no one could argue that the Wii Remote is a sub standard piece of kit in any way.
A third question is that there is a gaping price gap in the market and one wonders why no one has stepped in with low price efforts like the one we came up with at 091 Labs last week?
We would be interested in hearing why you think that may be.
Disclaimer: We don’t endorse etc., any of the products mentioned in the article – not even the gaffer tape. But we’re always pleased to give a shout out to 091 Labs.