If you’re a teacher or you regularly make presentations for work, you’ve probably heard about smartboards and wondered vaguely if they would be useful for your presentations. In short, they probably would as they tend to engage the audience well, allowing them to really follow what you’re trying to teach them.
Now if you just don’t have the budget for a full-price smartboard, here’s something you will love: it’s a neat hack to use a Wii remote (Wiimote) and an infrared pen as a smartboard. Using a few cheap tools you might already have alongside some free software, you have the recipe for a smartboard. This is a fine hour for open source and hacking popular gadgets!
Why Use A Smartboard?
Backing up a bit in case you’re not completely familiar with smartboards, essentially a smartboard is when your computer screen is projected onto a white screen and you can manipulate this projection as if it’s a giant touch-screen.
Now, here’s a quick run-down of the sorts of things you can do with a smartboard:
- Use interactive websites in demonstrations.
- Highlighting text while discussing it.
- Draw to help explain complex processes.
- Record your entire lecture for replay later.
- Play games as a group.
- Create visualisations of data while obtaining the data.
- Check out this presentation for more ideas.
Basics Of A Wiimote Smartboard
Johnny Chung Lee is the designer of the Wiimote Smartboard and the full instructions and YouTube demo are available on his website. Essentially, the Wiimote Smartboard works like this: the Wii remote can track 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 your Wii remote in the same direction, you can interact with your computer using up to four infrared pens.
What You Need
You will need:
- Wii Remote (cheap imitations don’t usually work as well).
- A reliable way of mounting your Wii remote and holding it still.
- Infrared pen (check compatibility with your chosen software before buying – or, build your own IR pen if you’re keen).
- Computer with Bluetooth (to connect to Wii Remote).
- Large monitor or projector and white screen (anything to make it bigger).
- Software to make it work (there’s a few choices – read on).
Before you run into trouble, take this advice:
- If you’re using a monitor, look for an infrared pen which doesn’t require you to press down in order 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 the signal gets blocked by you standing in the way).
- Try the Wiimote Project forum for help.
- If you want extra guidance and tips, try the SmoothBoard Wiki.
- Calibration can be tricky – ensure your devices will work with your software before you buy, then check the forum if you need specific help.
There are free and paid software options available:
- Johnny Lee’s original Windows WiiWhiteboard Software.
- Free Java-based multi-platform open source software option at uweschmidt.org.
- Sourceforge Wii Whiteboard Project.
- Smoothboard Windows Shareware (not free).
- Potentially many more options available to purchase.
How To Make Your Wii-Remote Smartboard
- Install whichever version of the Wii-remote smartboard software you’ve chosen. Then set up your computer with your projector or large monitor as you wish.
- To connect your Wii remote to your computer, turn on Bluetooth for the computer, then press the 1 and 2 buttons on the Wii remote to pair the devices.
- Place the Wii remote so that it’s facing the board, not less than 45 degrees angle from the board. Try to make it so that you won’t accidentally block the line between the Wii remote and your infrared pen with your body.
- Run the software and ensure you calibrate your infrared pen as per the instructions. From now on, you should be able to use the pen as if it’s a mouse “” clicking and dragging objects, drawing or highlighting text.
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Let us know how you use your smartboard (Wii-remote variety or purpose-built). Do you use it in a classroom or for work? What works well? Let us know in the comments!