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Topics - cumings

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Wiimote Interactive Whiteboard / Ceiling mounting and remote syncing
« on: November 09, 2008, 11:39:35 AM »
Hi all,

I have an idea about how to accomplish remote syncing that would be easy to deploy in a variety of environments with little cost or effort.  I wanted to get some feedback on what people think, so please try it out.  This is geared toward whiteboard applications, but there might be other uses as well.

Background:
In a classroom setting, with multiple possible instructors, it would be ideal to have the Wiimote permanently mounted on the ceiling to get a good consistent view of the board.  There are a number of possible solutions, such as the pole mount available from 3PInteract.  However, there seems to be the lingering issue with all these solutions that you have to reach high up to press the 1 & 2 buttons to sync the Bluetooth connection.  Some solutions have been proposed, such as taping the buttons permanently down or soldering in a remote switch to activate the 1 & 2 buttons (or the red sync button under the battery cover), but these both have their issues.  If the buttons are taped permanently down, then the Wiimote is constantly in discovery mode, which would present numerous problems, especially in a building with many Wiimotes installed.  Any user with a Class 1 Bluetooth transceiver would likely "see" all the Wiimotes in the building.  As for opening up the Wiimote and soldering into it, this is labor intensive, it presents quality control issues, and it makes the system more difficult to service or replace down the road.

New solution:
I propose instead to plug the Wiimote AC adapter (see other posts) into an outlet with a wall switch.  If the red sync button is held permanently down (with a small block, for example), then the unit will go into discovery mode for only the first 20 seconds after being powered on, and during this time a Bluetooth connection can be established.  If a connection is not established in that time, the unit goes quiet, and a user can flick the switch off and on to try again.  This solution has the advantages that it makes use of pre-existing remote technology (switched outlets), and it is easy and affordable to implement.  Furthermore, it doesnít permanently modify the Wiimote (thus the units are easy to replace down the road).  If a switched outlet isnít available near the Wiimote, one can be created using a product such as the Lutron Anywhere Switch (Lutron 6697).  Finally, it doesnít present the security issues of having the unit constantly in discovery mode. 

However, there are some quirks and difficulties with this approach.  The user only has 20 seconds to establish the Bluetooth connection.  After this time, the Wiimote will go silent until the power is cycled, thus breaking any connection.  Therefore, the user has only 20 seconds to go from power-on to running an application, which maybe somewhat faster than a typical user would go.  Thus, I would highly recommend using this solution with the WiimoteConnect program, configured to immediately start the end application (such as Smoothboard).  The protocol would include running the WiimoteConnect application, waiting a few seconds, and then powering-on the Wiimote.  In testing, this protocol successfully connects every time.  One condition is that the WiimoteConnect program requires the Microsoft Bluetooth stack (standard in Windows XP SP2 and SP3).  The Bluetooth adapter tested was the Iogear GBU421.

The second quirk is that the Wiimote must completely power down in order to go into discovery mode once the power is restored.  If the Wiimote is in an idle state (has never been connected or has had the connection properly terminated), then it will consume virtually no power, and it can actually remain "alive" for 5-10 seconds after the power is removed.  If the Wiimote doesnít go into discovery mode when turning the power switch on, a good protocol would be to turn it off for ~5-15 seconds, and then turn it back on.  In testing, this is a reliable way to initiate the discovery process.  Evidently, the AC power to the Wiimote must also not include any sort of batteries.  If there are rechargeable batteries in the Wiimote, you might need to wait weeks for the unit to fully power-down.  Finally, depending on what AC adapter is used, it might be necessary to add a drain resistor in parallel to the Wiimote so that the adapter quickly loses voltage when the AC power is removed (100-300 Ohm should be fine).

Conclusions:
I believe this trick could provide the last link in the chain making the Wiimote a truly enterprise-level whiteboard solution.  Iím excited to hear feedback on these ideas.  Please post here with successes or failures if you try this out

-John

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