Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Johnny Lee demos Wii Remote hacks

By Samantha K.

Technology such as Smartboards can cost about "two to three thousand dollars". In this talk, Johnny Lee demonstrates how you can use a whiteboard, wii remote, and infrared LED light to create the same interactive board.

He begins his talk by explaining; " ...as researchers, something that we often do is use immense resources to achieve certain capabilities, or achieve certain goals. And this is essential to the progress of science, or exploration of what is possible. But it sort of creates this unfortunate situation where a tiny, tiny fraction of the world can actually participate in this exploration or can benefit from that technology. And something that motivates me, and what gets me really excited about my research is when I see simple opportunities to drastically change that distribution, and make the technology accessible to a much wider percentage of the population." This basically means that there is a push to improve technology and create more advanced options, yet very few people actually get to benefit from this.

This is why he is demonstrating a system to create a similar type of technology using a whiteboard, a Wii remote, and an infrared pen. He has his computer setup with the projector, and have a Wii remote sitting on top of it. So, "what this means is that if I run this piece of software, the camera sees the infrared dot, and I can register the location of the camera pixels to the projector pixels. And now this is like a whiteboard surface." He has put the specific software on his website and he lets people download it for free. Another nice thing is that a camera can see multiple dots, so this is actually a multi-touch, interactive whiteboard system as well." However, there are some limitations of this approach, but you get about 80 percent of the way there, for about one percent of the cost.

He goes on to explain his second demonstration; " I have this Wii remote that's actually next to the TV. So it's pointing away from the display, rather than pointing at the display. And why this is interesting is that if you put on, say, a pair of safety glasses, that have two infrared dots in them, what these two dots are essentially going to give you is give the computer an approximation of your head location. And why this is interesting is I have this sort of application running on the computer monitor, which has a 3D room, with some targets floating in it. And you can see that it looks like a 3D room if you can see, kind of like a video game, it sort of looks 3D, but for the most part, the image looks pretty flat, and bound to the surface of the screen. But if we turn on head tracking, the computer can change the image that's on the screen and make it respond to the head movements."

He explains that YouTube has really changed the way and the speed in which a single individual can actually spread an idea around the world. "I'm doing some research in my lab with a video camera, and within the first week, a million people had seen this work, and literally within days, engineers, teachers and students from around the world, were already posting their own YouTube videos of them using my system or derivatives of this work."

In conclusion, Johnny Lee is trying to encourage an alternate way to create expensive technology for a lower price. This way, more people will have access to it. He is also bringing attention to the speed at which information can travel over the internet and how we can use it to spread ideas such as his.

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