Interactive Whiteboard FAQ (Wii)

Ivan just got back from TESOL, where the Wiimote-based $50 Interactive Whiteboard was very well received.  We started talking about some of the questions that were asked which lead to this post: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about the $50 Interactive Whiteboard.

How much does it cost? / Is it really only $50?
The controller for the Nintento Wii is for sale throughout the United States for $40.  You can build an infrared pen for $5-6.  The software is free to download.  The cost of the computer, projector, and Bluetooth adapter (if your computer does not have built-in Bluetooth) are not included in the $50.

I can’t make my own infrared pen.  Can I buy one?
Absolutely.  Do a Google search and you will find several options starting as low as $6.

Do I have to modify the Wiimote? / Can I still use it with my Wii?
No / Yes.  The Wiimote connects to the computer via Bluetooth, the same way it connects to the Wii.  You don’t have to open the Wiimote, break it, or reprogram it.  So, if you (or your kids) have a Wii, you can use the equipment you already have for both purposes.

Can I take a Wiimote and infrared pen in my carry-on luggage?
You mean if you’re flying to a conference to make a presentation?  It turns out you can.  Both Ivan and I have recently carried these devices onto flights and had no problems at all.

How do I know if my infrared pen is working?
Check it with the camera on a cell phone.

How do I get started?
Download the free software (Mac version or PC version), build an infrared pen (see my demo) or buy one online, connect to the Wiimote via Bluetooth (open your Bluetooth devices, push the 1 and 2 buttons on the Wiimote, add the device), run the software, calibrate it (push the “calibrate button,” click on the targets), and you are done.

How do I set it up?
Place the Wiimote so that it is at least as high as the midpoint of the screen and aimed at the center of the screen.  It should be at a 45 degree angle from the surface of the screen on either the left or right side, depending on how you write — you don’t want to block the Wiimote’s view of the pen with your hand.  The Wiimote should be placed far enough away (usually about 10 feet) to be able to “see” the whole screen.  You’re ready to calibrate (see above).

What should I do?  My writing is choppy. / My Wiimote can’t see my pen. / There are too many infrared dots!
If your writing is choppy or your pen seems to stutter, try adjusting the “smoothness” on the PC version.  Mac users have fewer options.  Quit as many other applications as you can and / or try moving the Wiimote closer to the screen and recalibrating.
If your Wiimote can’t see your pen, check that the Wiimote is connected to your computer and that your pen is working.  Assuming everything is working properly, you probably need to reposition your Wiimote so that it can see the entire screen.  The Mac version allows you to track infrared dots that the Wiimote sees, which is helpful, but both versions tell you how many dots are visible.  Try the pen at all four corners to make sure it is visible.  If not, move the Wiimote and try again.
If you are seeing too many infrared dots, you may be picking up interference.  I’ve gotten infrared interference from overhead incandescent lighting.  Try moving the Wiimote around to see if you can identify the source of the interference and then eliminate it (in my case, I turned off those lights).

Hope this helps.  If you have a question that does not appear on this list, leave it as a comment and I’ll answer it and / or add it to the list.


Filed under Projects

31 responses to “Interactive Whiteboard FAQ (Wii)

  1. Hi,

    Smoothboard for Windows contains the calibration viewer to detect the stray IR sources detected by the Wiimote. Windows users are also able to connect the Wiimote automatically with the latest Smoothboard version.

    Boon Jin

  2. As a fellow esl I have been following you on twitter for a while…

    Smoothboard and Wiimote whiteboard are both good improvements over the original software…

    smoothboard 1.6 is a good choice for teachers because of the autoconnect, wii-presenter, off-screen toggles connected to a floating toolbar, programable tracking area to avoid students hacking your computer, definable wiimotes to connect so you can have various whiteboards, (ie, netbooks connected to tvs as learning stations) and complete easy-peasy programability. Despite all the features, the interface is simple and clean. It has everything except vectoral drawing and multi-touch, which might be forthcoming. It is also in .net , so EVENTUALLY it will be available for linux and macs.

    Uwe Schmidt’s java program is compatible with tuio multi-touch, which apparently accepts win 7 multi-touch via an applet. It isn’t as complete, but it is *free* and more multi-platform.

    As a teacher, i’d bite the 29 buck bullet and go registered smoothboard (to get rid of the nag, boon left a fully functional software for free testing.) on a pc, and have interested students play with schmidt’s program, although the gamers would probably like smoothboard’s programability, and using the wii-controller as a wii controller, via presenter.

    • Wow, Matt. Some great insight into other options there. My Wii IWB has been collecting some dust lately, but I’m going to look into some of these options. Thanks for sharing them!

      • I wrote an article on the new gen wii programs… they are constantly improving. Still like smoothboard.

        The other thing that might be interesting to get re-interested is looking at making your own home grown pens…

        I have an ever growing collection now of “non-pen” pens. (ranging from spraycans to magic wands to cutlasses.) The form changes the use and makes for neat class specific interaction… and the moment you make your own shtuff you go from consumer to producer which is great to model to students.

  3. Just to let you know.. it looks like I’ve been accepted onto a project where the regional government are going to test rolling out Wiimote IWBs to all schools.

    The guys running the project are really wild and include a couple of programmers who are developing all sorts of wild and wacky new uses with the Wiimote.

    One I particularly like is as a PowerPoint slides interactive pointer and slide advancer. Really nice idea.

    The local Smart official re-seller (who will have sold a minimum of 3 IWBs to each of the hundreds of schools in the area) is already nervous and has written an article knocking the Wiimote for its: non-safety tested pens, need to change the batteries that they hint will be expensive, need for an “ultra modern” pc with bluetooth, complex needs to mount the Wiimote on a tripod and- get this- the possible dangers of electronic pollution from the Bluetooth radio waves. Have a laugh here if you like.

    Article (In Italian) about how dangerous and costly the Wiimote is

    • Seth, that is very funny…

      Yeah, Nintendo certainly wouldn’t be looking at safety in the wiimotes. They probably didn’t do half the safety testing as Smart. (the smartboard would probably come in a silicon jacket if they made it.)

      And the 2 dollars to make a pen vs the (100$?) for the Smart board doesn’t make the list as being as important that it uses a dangerous aa battery.

      And the fact that they don’t actually have to learn a new interface is put as a negative point. Hmm.

      I have it running on a netbook, (1 gig hard drive.) with a lot of FREE software, and is great to use until the mobile platform is full out happening… and probably afterwards. MS paint isn’t maybe as good as crayon physics to use it with, but OneNote, or the built in tablet pc of win7 premium with handwriting recognition kinda could be useful. (Of course a couple of startup companies like Microsoft and Nintendo shouldn’t be compared to the real deal.)

      Stands to reason we should mention that the original program is based on Johnny Chung Lee’s use of Brian Peek’s wiilib code. (both employed by Microsoft) and that it was a concept test that was built upon by a lot of other people. And getting cooler all the time. Only thing i’d change with the wiimote is replace bluetooth with usb to eliminate (very) occasional dropped connections… any arduino geeks got this figured out?

      And environmentally everything is reusable. It is just so beautiful. (Boon, does Smoothboard come in italian yet? Maybe it would be a nice present for smartboard in Italy.)

      • Yeah, Smoothboard is available in Italian now. Together with more than 20 other languages, the localized installers can be found at

        You have mentioned that the connection drops occasionally. It may be due to irregular power supply to the Wiimote.

        For me, I always use rechargeable batteries rated at 2500mAh and above. A night of full charge of these batteries would last me from the morning to the night (at least 12 hours of non-stop connection).

        Boon Jin

  4. Great news, Seth. Glad to hear about a government supporting an option that is cheaper than Smartboards. (Depsite “dangers” — HA! — the only danger is opening their business up to competition!)

    Please keep me posted on applications that are developed. I would love to see more!

  5. Hi,

    Schools may be able to equip many of the classrooms with the wiimote whiteboard solution instead of spending on a single costly interactive whiteboard. 🙂

    Smooothboard’s floating toolbar should be a useful tool in presentations where the teacher is able to control the presentation or annotate easily. Thus, this brings competitiveness to the wiimote whiteboard solution in comparison with the traditional interactive whiteboards.

    Boon Jin

  6. I’ve just posted a comprehensive review of IR pens from four different companies. There are some neat products available! The review can be accessed here:

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  11. Go Smoothboard!! What government was this?

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  13. raghadn

    PLZ, can someone tell me how the calibration program work !!!
    what is its principle, i.e those 4 dots appears based on what !!
    and those 4 dots always appear in a fixed area size??

    • Good question raghadn. In my system, the Wii Interactive whiteboard system, the four dot calibration was actually the genius stroke that made the system practical but the same concept applies to all interactive whiteboard systems. You see, it is nearly impossible to have your sensing technology loo dead straight on to your display surface. Different installations, different classrooms with have their projected display be different size, and from the sensor’s point of view, because of perspective distortion, the display rectangle usually looks like a parallelogram. When you touch the four targets, you define for the system what a real rectangle look like. Then the matrix of dots that can be sensed can be multiplied by the matrix of your display rectangle and the coordinates re-mapped to a more appropriate location. It is really all about making your that the projected image and the “virtual” screen are in sync with each other. if the projector is bumped or moved after the calibration, relative to the sensors, then the calibration MUST be performed again, or else you will be drawing or touching in one place and seeing the effects of your touches in another.

      • raghadn

        Thanks James McLain for your explanation, so basically calibration is for mapping the actual projected screen area to the camera view area.

        but regarding the four target dots, they will always appear in fixed size ( the usual projected screen size) or user will have a size choices as the calibration program is ran ?

    • What do you mean by the size of the calibration dots?
      By default, the four dots appear at the corners of the screen. If you are unable to reach some of the dots and would like to manually select an area for calibration, you may use the Select Screen Area feature in Smoothboard. This can be found in Smoothboard Settings->Screen

  14. Michelle ritchie

    I have tried every way to calibrate but can’t. I can’t figure out the problem. I have read everything I can about the subject. Several teachers have tried. Any suggests?

  15. Michelle ritchie

    I can get the calibration to a place were I click on the four points to calibrate then after I calibrate I can’t use the IR pen.

    • Hi Michelle,

      Have you tried using Smoothboard Air with Duo or Smoothboard 2? The software that you are using may not work with your operating system.

      Boon Jin

      • Michelle Ritchie

        I just downloaded smooth board air with duo. Restarted the computer just in case and now when I search for my wiimote the Bluetooth finds it but then loses it in about 1 minute. Any suggestions, thank you so much.

      • Michelle Ritchie

        I have it working!!! So excited. My students love it.

      • Great to hear that. 🙂
        You may contact us if you any any help.

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