Open Thinkering


Creating an Interactive Whiteboard using a Nintendo WiiMote

Before I begin, let me just say that this IS actually easy. To put things into perspective, I didn’t opt for GCSE Electronics 13 years ago because my soldering skills were so bad. I hadn’t touched another soldering iron again – until last night. Anyone with an ounce of hand-eye coordination will be fine… 😉

I was fairly gobsmacked when I came across Johnny Chung Lee’s video of how to create an Interactive Whiteboard using a Nintendo WiiMote and infra-red light pen. It came courtesy of a blog post by Mr Platts (inexplicably down at the time of writing – cached version here). The video by Johnny, a PhD student at Carnegie Mellon University, is here:


Suitably inspired, I went promptly to HMV after school and bought a Nintendo WiiMote. You can get these pretty much anywhere – mine cost £32.99 but you can find them cheaper. 🙂

The other thing you need is an infra-red lightpen. These do exist commercially, but I couldn’t find one a) cheap enough, and b) readily available in small enough quantities (i.e. no minimum order). So I decided to make my own. It’s a basic circuit: all you need is an infra-red LED, a small switch, and a battery. I got mine from Maplin Electronics:

  • High-power Infra-red Emitting Diode (YH70 – £0.79)
  • 1xAAA Battery Box (JY45 – £0.43)
  • 7/0.2 Wire 10M Red (BL07 – £1.69)
  • Microswitch (GW67 – £1.29) (I chose this because of its size – you don’t actually need 3 poles on your microswitch, but if you do just solder wires to middle and one of outside poles)

I also bought a 30W soldering iron for £2.99, some AAA batteries, and some solder wire but obviously you don’t need these if you’ve already got them!

To make my IR pen easy to hold and on the eye, I decided to take apart a standard Berol DryWipe marker pen used on standard whiteboards. I’m no DIY expert, yet found it easy to take the pen apart and remove the necessary sections with a hacksaw. If I’d had a Dremel, it would have been even easier! 😉

The finished pictures of the finished pen and the circuit it contains can be found in this Flickr set and also below:
Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.

Finally, you can use the WiiMote/IR light pen combo for pretty much anything. The following video shows me turning my standard Macbook screen into a ‘touchscreen’. I’m using the WiiMote Whiteboard software under Mac OSX Leopard, but there is a Windows version too… 😀

[flickr video=2489895263 secret=c9b2307eae w=450 h=338]

You may find the links I’ve collected along the way with the tag wiimote handy!

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18 thoughts on “Creating an Interactive Whiteboard using a Nintendo WiiMote

  1. Thanks very much for doing this Doug. Whilst there has been a lot of chatter about this – for example I showed a couple of my SLT the Ted Talks video a few weeks ago – this shows that it can practically be done.

    Very useful and helpful. Having forwarded this onto colleagues this morning they have seen it working. Thus now we can actually do this. Excellent practical demonstration.

  2. Err Ok – looks awesome – Now im just wondering – how do you connect your wii-remote to the PC ?

  3. Ahh.. the site finally came back up and its all down the the bluetooth connection between the PC and the Wii remote – great if you have a bluetooth connection, otherwise you need that as well.

  4. I too saw this video the other day and before spending department budget on 2 Wii controllers and nagging the DT boys to knock up a couple of infa-red pens, I have 2.5 questions

    1. Does it REALLY work?
    2. How cumbersome is it all? Does the remote control have to be perfectly positioned?

    If its all good, I’m going shopping at the weekend!

  5. Thanks for the positive comments. :-)

    1. Yes, it REALLY does work.
    2. Once you get the remote in the right position, it's no trouble at all. The only thing I've found is that you need to avoid accidental short-circuits within your pen. I had a very hot pocket yesterday! :-o

  6. Thanks Doug, I’ve been inspired to put one together myself. Had a problem getting it to work at all.. tracked the problem down to the switch. Now the issue is line of sight between LED and wiimote. But have got it to work in a basic kind of way at least!

  7. Doug,

    Not inexplicably! But yes, down! Back up now though, need to do a bit of re-working. Nice post, well documented method, resources and examples. Hopefully this brings more DIYers into the IWB flock. It certainly is a fun and practical project.

    A bit of advice — I found a tidbit from some website to rough up the diode to help disperse the light omnidirectionally — apparently it meant just the tip, because I think I roughed mine up too much, and it is not visible to the wiimote . . . I’m going to make another pen, and then work on getting my second wiimote tracking . . . maybe multitouch ultra sensitive whiteboard!

    Anyway – keep in touch!

    Rich Platts

  8. @Danny: Glad you’ve got it working! 🙂

    @Richard: I too am tempted to make another one for multi-touch. Are there many applications that you can use with it, though? Can’t seem to find more than a couple…

    If you’re in the US and near a Radioshack store you might want to follow this video guide at Teacher Online Training. It has part numbers and a step-by-step guide! 😀

  9. I want to know how to set up the interactive whiteboard using a Mac laptop instead of a PC. Has anyone been successful? How did you get the software to run on the Mac? Johnny Lee told me some people have ported to a Mac. I don't know how to do that. Any and all help would be great.

  10. Thanks for the help Doug.

    For those people for whom even basic soldering is too much, ahem, there is also an ir led penlight you can buy. A Streamlight Stylus 65089.

    Beside the cost (24 GBP inc P&P from or somewhat cheaper from the only drawback is that the on off switch is at the top of the pen rather than the writing part.

    My only problem now is that my boss wants me to make Johnny’s 3d headset.

  11. Hi,
    I am trying to make this whiteboard to use in the classroom at school and I have the wii remote and I bought a usb bluetooth thing, and I downloaded the software from Jonny Lees website and I can’t get it to work. When I click to run the software it says ‘Exerption: Wii remote not found in HID device list. Can you please help!!! This is really frustrating!!!!
    Thanks, Olivia

  12. Hi,

    If you are using Windows application, you can probably try out Smoothboard as your interactive whiteboard.

    Basically, Smoothboard resembles Johnny Lee’s idea but it has been improved and modified to become a more user-friendly teaching tool.

    If you are interested, here’s the link for its latest autoconnect feature:

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