Saturday, March 14, 2009

A 50 dollar Smart Board?

While reading a recent article in Edutopia "Why integrate technology into the curriculum? The reasons are many." I found a post by Chris with a link to Johnny Lee's demo. A few seconds of following hyperlinks brought me to his home page and his Wii Remote Projects website. The website indicates that he is/was at Carnegie Mellon University (of Randy Pausch fame) working on Human Computer Interface. The two projects that are quite fascinating are the 40 dollar smart board and the 10 dollar head tracker.



For the smart board one needs the following:
  1. A bluetooth enabled computer (Win)
  2. A Wiimote (Wii Remote) - need to set up bluetooth connection with computer
  3. An infrared LED pen - could test with just a infrared remote of a discarded appliance?
  4. His software (Free download from his site)
  5. A projector or any LCD display connected to the computer.
Some people have had problems connecting the Wiimote with the computer using bluetooth. Others have struggled to create the LED pen. I am sure someone will come out with a commercial kit for this.
Kudos to Mr. Lee for his imagination and skills in putting this together.

I spent a good 2 hours this morning trying to get this to work. I have a Fujitsu Lifebook tablet PC with a built-in bluetooth adapter. It has Win XP. Its had a Toshiba Bluetooth stack that did not recognize the Wii Remote. So I found a newer version and installed that. Heart stopping moment when it uninstalled the older stack and the installation of the new stack stopped half way. Luckily after a couple of reboots, the new stack was installed and working.

Next the details of the bluetooth connection. I found several tutorials on this and the key things to remember are
  1. Use the 1 and 2 buttons on the Wii Remote simultaneously to put it in Discovery mode. If you want you can use the red button under the battery cover. The 4 blue LEDs at the bottom of the Wii Remote need to be flashing - this means it is in Discovery mode.
  2. Run the bluetooth manager on the PC and it should recognize the Wii Remote. Keep repeatedly pressing the 1 + 2 buttons to keep the LEDs flashing. When asked for a Passkey - choose the radiobutton that says "Do not use passkey". If you do not have that option, you need a newer Toshiba Bluetooth stack.
This allowed me to get the Wii Remote added to my Bluetooth devices. But what do you do with this? Well even without Mr. Lee's software you can use the Wii Remote on your computer to do different things using a software called GlovePIE. This is a free download (Zipped archive that needs extraction). When you start the Program and open a file called testwiimote.pie and run it, it detects the mouse and some numbers change on the screen indicating that it is working.

I got this far and then I tried to run another script in GlovePIE (it comes with several) and it stopped detecting the Wii Remote! Also Mr. Lee's software said no Wii Remote detected under HID device list! The Bluetooth manager still showed the Wii Remote as connected to the PC. Did not have time to troubleshoot this further. Needless to say this is not a easy install. People might want to wait for a more seamless solution - a bundled BT adapter + driver/stack + a script to use it as a mouse + some LED pens! I will wait for a while before I will have the time and energy to try this again.
Well ... so much for waiting a while. Came home late tonight and saw the Wii Remote sitting next to the laptop and had to give it one more try. AND SUCCESS! I downloaded the latest version of the Toshiba BT stack (version 6.30.01) and rebooted and it worked like a charm! I had not downloaded this earlier as the website said it was only for Toshiba Laptops.
So it works very well with the GlovePIE software where there is a script for using this with Firefox. Angling the Wii Remote in various directions, moves the cursor. The A button is a left click and the home button is a right click. Now just have to figure out the LED pens and then use the smart board software from Johnny Lee!
Shall I saw a day well spent?