Subversive tech: An IWB for £30?!

I love the idea of being creative with technology; not just creating things ICT, but thinking laterally with the technology itself. In the past I have tried this by creating a cheap digital visualiser, a £2000 audio compressor for £150, and using a modified touch screen shop till for music performance…

Therefore, when I saw Johnny Chung Lee’s YouTube video detailing making an interactive whiteboard from a Wii remote I just had to have a go! This method involves making a pen which emits InfraRed light, and setting up the Wii remote to track the light from this pen and interpret it into mouse movements.

Sounds complicated, but it was one of the simplest projects I have ever made. I ordered an Infra Red emitter from Rapid Electronics, and a switch to turn it on. When these arrived I set about removing the innards from a permanent marker and fitting these inside. The emitter, switch and a battery just had to be connected in a simple circuit, and the hardest part was simply getting them all to fit inside the pen which was a little fiddly. I ended up soldering the battery into the circuit, but I might revisit it and make the battery a little easier to replace.

Once that was done I nipped down to gamestation and bought a Wiimote for £20 (would be nice if they cleaned their second hand hardware before selling it though- yuk!). Then I downloaded the native Mac version of Johnny Chung Lee’s WiiMoteWhiteboard software, pressed the 1 and 2 button to link the WiiMote with my Mac and calibrated the board. You will obviously need a Mac with bluetooth, or a bluetooth dongle for this to work. The software exists for PC, and looks as easy to use but I haven’t tried it.

Positioning the WiiMote takes a little playing, and I would recommend opeing the camera view in the software and checking that it can “see” the WiiMote at any point on the screen before trying to calibrate. You just have to get a feel for what the angle of view is on the camera. Once this is done you have a suprisingly responsive and accurate IWB on any screen, or with a projector – any surface!

I have been really pleased so far with this, and am already thinking of ways to use it in the classroom (google earth on a table anyone?). There’s a demo video below, and you can find all the info you need to make your own on Johnny Chung Lee’s website.

Here’s to subversive technology!

Edit: Have just found a much more powerful solution to the software side of this in Smoothboard. I haven’t tried it myself, but it looks worth looking at if you are using a solution such as this.

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