If you’re a teacher or give presentations regularly for work, you’ve probably heard of smartboards and wondered if they would be useful for your presentations. In short, they are likely to engage the audience well, allowing them to really follow what you are trying to teach them.
Now, if you just don’t have the budget for a full-fledged smart pad, here’s what you’ll love: this is a great way to use your Wii remote (Wiimote) and infrared pen as a smart board. Using a few cheap tools that you may already have along with some free software, you have the recipe for creating a Smartboard. It’s a great hour for open source and hacking popular gadgets!
Why Use Smartboard?
A bit of a back-up if you’re not entirely familiar with smartboards, essentially a smartboard is where your computer screen is projected onto a white screen and you can manipulate that projection as if it were a giant touch screen.
Here is a quick overview of what you can do with Smartboard:
Use interactive sites in demos.
Highlighting text when discussing.
Draw to help explain complex processes.
Record the entire lecture for review later.
Play games in a group.
Create data visualization when data is received.
Check out this presentation for more ideas.
Wiimote Smartboard Basics
Johnny Chung Lee is the designer of the Wiimote Smartboard. Full instructions and a YouTube demo are available on its website. Basically, the Wiimote Smartboard works like this: The Wii Remote can monitor up to four infrared signals. So if you project your computer screen onto a white screen (or just use a large LCD monitor) and point the Wii Remote in the same direction, you can interact with the computer using up to four infrared knobs.
What you need
You will need:
Wii Remote (cheap imitations usually don’t work either).
A reliable way to install the Wii Remote and hold it in place.
Infrared pen (check compatibility with your chosen software before purchasing — or build your own IR pen if you want).
Computer with Bluetooth (for connection to Wii Remote).
Large monitor or projector and a white screen (anything to make it bigger).
Software to make it work (there are several options — read on).
Before you run into trouble, take this advice:
If you’re using a monitor, look for an infrared knob that you don’t have to press down to activate. Look for a switch on the side of the pen, as well as a click button.
Two Wii Remotes work better than one (in case you’ve blocked a signal in the way).
Try the Wiimote project forum for help.
If you need more guidance and advice, check out the SmoothBoard Wiki.
Calibration can be tricky — make sure your devices will work with your software before purchasing, then check the forum if you need specific help.
Free and paid software options available:
The original Johnny Lee software for Windows WiiWhiteboard.
Free and open source multi-platform software in Java at uweschmidt.org.
Sourceforge Wii Whiteboard Project.
Smooth board Windows Shareware (not free).
There are potentially many more options available for purchase.
How to Make Your Own Wii-Remote Smartboard
Install whichever version of the Wii-Remote Smartboard software you choose. Then set up your computer with a projector or large monitor as you wish.
To connect your Wii Remote to your computer, turn on Bluetooth for your computer, then press the 1 and 2 buttons on the Wii Remote to pair the devices.
Position the Wii Remote so that it faces the board, at least 45 degrees from the board. Take care not to accidentally block the line between the Wii Remote and your infrared pen with your body.
Run the software and make sure you have calibrated the infrared pen according to the instructions. From now on, you will be able to use the pen as if it were a «mouse», clicking and dragging objects, drawing or highlighting text.
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Let us know how you use your Smartboard (Wii-Remote or custom built). Are you using it in class or for work? What works well? Let us know about it in the comments!