The Wii and Flash as a Possible Exhibit Platform

Since the release of the Wii gaming system developers have been experimenting in connecting game controllers with other computer systems. Our recent entry into multitouch, has deepened our interest in all forms of physical computing. So, we decided to take a quick look ourselves to see what possibilities Wii Remote controllers and Adobe Flash might provide for exhibit development.

As a quick proof of concept, we downloaded the WiiFlash Server for Mac and took a look at some the examples provided on the WiiFlash site

In no time, Jonathan here at the studio had some examples working with the Wii controller and the Wii balance board. The controller examples took advantage of the motion sensing built into the device. (You can learn more about how the Wii works at the NY Times website. ) As you move the Wii controller a 3D-image of plane rotates and moves in unison on the screen.

We also tried out DarwiinRemote which turns the Wii infrared sensors into mouse coordinates. Both this application and the WiiFlash server connect via a bluetooth device in your computer. Any mouse or keyboard action can be mapped to the Wiimote buttons.

We also came across examples that use the controller as “receiver” with LEDs are used as input devices. A good example of this application is WiiSpray

Securing the Wii controller in a museum environment is a major concern, as is power to the controller. Still, one could imagine providing constant power through some sort of tether that might simultaneously secure the device.

The Wii balance board shows a lot promise for museum exhibits. It provides a simple way to measure a visitor’s weight and get that data into the computer. One could easily picture a “your weight on other worlds” exhibit (see a simple online version at the Exploratorium). The board and Flash can also be used to detect the weight of each quadrant along with the total weight being registered on the board.  Side-to-side and front-and-back movement can be detected via the four quadrants along Flash to detect shifts in weight.

wii_fit_flash
The Wii Balance Board.

weight of quadrants
The output in WiiFlash displaying weight from the different quadrants.

Measuring weight

The WiiFlash demo showing the total weight in Kilograms.

One limitation is the WiiFlash server cannot read the current battery power of the board. However, in a museum exhibit you’d need to wire direct power to battery area anyway. You’d also need to find a way to secure the board. The only major limitation to using the Wii balance board in a museum environment is that it needs to detect the blue tooth connection with the computer on start-up.  This requires pressing a button on the bottom of the board when the computer boots. So, constant power would be necessary. Of course, this not a very “green” option.

We’ll post more about the Wii and Flash as a potential exhibit development platform as we continue to experiment.

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