Wednesday, February 04, 2009

$40 Smart Board using Wii Remote

Johnny Lee, of CMU, has created a very useful hack of the common Wii remote to effectively replace the need for a smart board. Here is a video showing him demonstrate his technology. The system is based on the fact that the Wii remote is a high quality infrared camera. By connecting the Wii remote to a PC/Mac via Blue Tooth -- rather than to the Wii game console -- the camera can now be used to track infrared sources. Because many people have Wii remotes and Blue Tooth enabled computers, the only thing they need is an infrared source. A number of devices are now being produced. I have a customized key chain light, but a commercially sold version can be had for a few dollars. There are other versions, but I like this one because it does not require the person press on the surface to activate the light. That's important to me because I use LCD TVs to display. Pressing on the surface could cause damage. If you know that you are going to be using a firm surface, such as a white board, you can use a light pen that turns on as it is pressed to the surface. That can be lot better than having to remember to press a button every time you start to write.

The Wii sees where the infrared light is positioned on the surface -- which can be anything flat -- and relays that position back to the computer via Blue Tooth. The combination of the light pen and the Wii emulates a mouse. You can move, write, click, etc. as you could with a normal mouse.

The key to making this work is the software Johnny Lee created and the versions that have subsequently taken his code to the next level. The most sophisticated on the ones I found was Smoothboard. There is a cross-platform version that also works nicely. It's less feature-rich, but could be a good option for schools with Linux and Mac systems.

One thing I learned from my tests is that it's a good idea to use two Wii remotes. The reason is that when I'm writing I can inadvertently block the light of the pen from the Wii. Things are improved when I put the Wii remote to one side of the screen, but two units would certainly help.

The possibilities of this system is great. You could project on a brick wall via a LCD projector or view your computer via a large TV screen. The Wii will work with both.

Give it a try. It's a lot of fun and it could save you a great deal of money.



englishucanuse said...

Hi Thane

Herbert here. I've using this for over a year with great results. Students eyes and ears pickup when you use this easy to make smartboard!

Boon Jin said...


Smoothboard has advanced considerably in comparison with the early versions. Now, Smoothboard provides easy to use features that allow new users to quickly get their interactive whiteboards running.

Smoothboard comes with built-in annotation features which allows users to write on anywhere on the desktop. The floating toolbar also allows effortless control of presentations.

The latest feature, SmoothConnect allows automatic connection for the Wii Remotes.

Boon Jin

Jayson Escano said...

Hi! I recently watched your demo on youtube regarding the use of wii remote to make a projection on any surface interactive. I am a graduating student of Electronics&Communications Engineering and I want to emulate your projects for my final thesis before I graduate this March. Can you help me?

Thane said...


I think the Wii remote system would be a good topic for research. I don't think I can be much use to you. The Wii remote system is a development of Carnegie Mellon University. I'm just reporting it on this blog. I wish I could say I came up with the idea, but I didn't.


Boon Jin said...

Hi Jayson,

If you have technical enquiries, you can always post at the wiimote project forum, where fellow users and I will try to help assisting you on your Wiimote project. For my graduation project, I was also working on a wiimote project. :)

All the best in your final thesis!

Boon Jin

Maryssa M. said...

my math teacher did this, and it works great! :D many other teachers in our high school are looking into it now (:

Brenda said...

Can a generic Wiimote be used?

Thane said...


The Wii remote is the normal one. No special add-ons.


Deanna said...

Hi! Would this work as a cheap home-theatre equivalent? I'm finishing my family's basement and I'm not sure a yard sale of old stuff would bring in much cash... so I'm looking for some ways to cut corners.

Thane said...


I'm not sure. It depends on what you mean. As you probably know, a Wii can be used to stream Netflix content and perhaps other content. The Wii remotes probably work to control the on-screen menus. I've not used my Wii in this way, so I'm guessing here.


Traduceri said...

Very good article. It's a shame you stop posting.

Thane said...

Thank you for you comment. I have been thinking of getting back to posting but with more of a focus on security topics -- but still on a shoestring.

I was posting on another blog for a year,, but that was all about technology in the developing world.


PG said...

i am working on this project from past few months and just want to knw that how jhony chung lee convert this ir into co ordinates? what the procedure behind this how we get co ordinates.this is fianl sem proj i need this info if anyone can help me then mail me pls at

Thane said...

I would recommend going to the Carnegie Mellon site for the specs on how this system works, but the IR is converted into coordinates by the WII remotes, I believe. They scan the surface and detect where the beam is landing. Of course, the software has to be calibrated to know where a dot is in relationship to the projected image. But in terms of knowing the coordinates for the point of light, the WII remotes do that.

Good luck with your project.


Wii Fernbedienung said...

Johnny Lee, of CMU, has created a very useful hack of the common Wii remote to effectively replace the need for a smart board. Here is a video ...