Notes on Installing A $3 Smart Board

... well, $3 if you happen to have a Nintendo Wii remote, projector, and computer on hand. With so many ideas, our physical white board space was getting cluttered and notes of "do not erase" were multiplying rapidly. A Smart white board was becoming appealing. With all of the components on hand, all that needed to be done was to make an IR LED pen and download the WiiMote Whiteboard App.

To construct the IR LED pen, I used a VishayTSAL6400 25 degree 25mW IR LED, a AAA battery socket, and momentary SPST N.O. push button. I designed and 3D printed the case in Fusion360.

Evaluation & Usage

This thing is really fun to use and nothing says high-tech like an interactive whiteboard. Some of the immediate advantages are access to cool, browser based drawing apps that let you collaborate with anyone in the world in realtime. Handy for long-distance white board sessions. These drawing apps are also much more heavy featured and nicer looking than ones available through WebEx.

Another huge advantage is being able to save and recall sessions or pull open multiple board at the same time. This ensures your whiteboard space is never cluttered and littered with "do not erase" signs. Designs can also be instantly printed, saved to file, and shared.

Primary disadvantage: Handiness. In the real world, one need only walk up to a whiteboard and begin drawing. The Smartboard requires the computer be on, the Wii remote paired up (which can be instant, or take a few min), the projector on, and whatever drawing app cued up. By this time, transient bright ideas have a way of escaping as you start up the equipment. This can be overcome by leaving drawing applications open by default and syncing the Wii remote first thing in the day as part of lab startup procedure.

Another notable disadvantage is an inability to write text without going to the computer keyboard, which ruins the illusion of smart-boarding. To overcome this is simple. Install the Unified Remote App and type into your computer through your smartphone! With a pen in the right hand, and phone in the left, you can do things just as intuitively as if you were at the computer.

Final disadvantage, Latency. Drawing on the Wiimote Whiteboard isn't as tactile or responsive as a whiteboard, far from it. Depending on what drawing app you use, it can also be a hassle to dig through tools to change color and size of your pen.

Verdict:

You get what you pay for. Still evaluating. Perhaps a way to have your cake and eat it too is to invest in a drafting tablet like Wacom, or invest in a real touch screen smartboard. But in many cases, nothing beats being able to walk up to an "analog" whiteboard and jot down a figure when the idea strikes.