Redmond, WA. There is no denying the appeal of interactive whiteboards: to interact directly with the image transcends the mouse-and-keyboard experience, opening opportunities for memorable learning experiences. SMART Technologies, who introduced the first interactive whiteboard or "smartboard" in 1991, dominates this market, thanks more to its outstanding suite of applications than to SMART Boards, themselves.
But, what if you didn't need all those applications? Why fork out $2k-$10k for an all-too-small whiteboard? What if you could get most of what you needed for less than $100? Could you to do without some features (like recording capability) in exchange for others (such as the ability to have up to four people write on the board at the same time)? Would that be good enough?
What if you could achieve smartboard functionality on any kind of display, using only a $40 Wii video game controller and a few parts from Radio Shack?
The Wii-markable Wiimote
The Wii remote, or Wiimote, is the primary controller for Nintendo's Wii console. Despite its low cost, the Wii remote is a sophisticated haptic interface with integrated accelerometer, high-resolution IR camera, Bluetooth communications and peripheral support. (Some might say that the elegance of its design helped make Super Mario Bros. the most awesomest video game in the universe.)
A Wii-kend Project for Johnny Lee
Johnny Chung Lee is a graduate of Carnegie Mellon University. With a PhD in Human-Computer Interaction (HCI), he now works as a researcher of applied sciences for Microsoft. Johnny Lee likes projection technology, multi-touch input, augmented reality, brain-computer interfaces and haptics.
In 2007, back in his lab at Carnegie Mellon, Johnny Lee began to experiment with the Wiimote and found that he could connect it to a computer via Bluetooth.
If you are in a rush and don't have time for all the clips listed in this article, just look at this (right) presentation that Johnny gave at TED 2008…
In the first three months that the project was publicized, more than a half-million people downloaded Johnny's code. Nearly 2.5-million people have watched his video.
The following month he demonstrated a multi-touch interactive whiteboard he'd developed with the Wiimote. To date, this video has been viewed by nearly 3-million people.
A year ago, Johnny Lee demonstrated a VR head-tracking application using the Wiimote, attracting 7.5-million viewers.
You can find all of Johnny Lee's Wiimote work here.
Building on Lee's work, a bright young man from Singapore named Goh Boon Jin, developed an interactive whiteboard application called Smoothboard to go with the Wiimote. In its first 10-months, more than 20-thousand people downloaded the app.
This past July, the enterprising Mr. Goh came up with some groovy IR Pens to save you the trouble of fabricating your own. They can be had for as little as $40 US (plus shipping) and include a single user license for Smoothboard. IRPensOnline.com is another good source for IR-Pens, however, if you prefer the complete DIY route, you'll find all you need on IR-Pen basics here.
Interaction Designer, Andrew McKinney provides an excellent hands-on comparison within the context of middle school instruction…
Yes Wii Can
A Wii-based smartboard solution is not going to work for everyone hankering for an interactive whiteboard. SMART Technology will continue to deliver the widest array of teaching applications for their SMART Board. Other out-of-the-box solutions offer somewhat higher resolution and greater accuracy.
It is always advisable to conduct a comprehensive needs assessment and budget projections before making widespread deployment decisions.
Assuming that user needs are not tied to out-of-the-box products, it may be worthwhile to evaluate the feasibility of a low-cost Wii smartboard solution to see if it might be good enough to meet your customers' needs. If you already own a flat-panel or large-format data projector (and you wouldn't be reading this if you didn't), your total outlay to build your own smartboard could be less than $100 US (excluding labor).
If you have evaluated this technology, consider sharing your experience in the comments section at the end of this article. If you are interested in conducting your own evaluation, perhaps you could exchange ideas for evaluations and enhancements with your peers on the AV-1 Forum. That is why we are here.
||by Joe Schuch|