A student-led initiative is using standard Wii remotes and free computer software to give classroom projectors the capabilities of a SMART Board at a fraction of the cost.
The new technology — known as a Wiimote Whiteboard — was installed in the Morse-Ezra Stiles theater last Sunday as part of the Yale College Council 10K initiative, said Pedro Monroy, Information and Technology manager of classroom technology and event services. The project received $500 to install four Wiimote Whiteboards at approximately $100 apiece, not including taxes and other installation costs — about one-twentieth of the average price of a SMART Board. While ITS aims to install the remaining three units in William L. Harkness Hall by the end of the term, ITS administrators are still deciding how best to place and secure the whiteboards in classrooms.
Each Wiimote Whiteboard requires free software called “Smoothboard,” an infrared pen and a Wii remote — like those commonly used in video games — to transform a standard projector into the equivalent of a SMART Board. An older form of interactive whiteboard, SMART Boards came to Yale in the mid-2000s and let users edit documents projected onto a large screen with stylus-like pens.
Once the Wiimote Whiteboard setup is configured by installing the Smoothboard software on the necessary computer, attaching the remote to a stand and pointing it at the projector screen, the user can touch the red pen to the projector screen to make changes that also appear on the screen of the connected computer. The Wiimote Whiteboard uses Bluetooth to connect computers one at a time to the rest of the device.
Rahul Kini ’14, a Stilesian who proposed and is leading the initiative, said the new technology is geared toward students and will give artists and engineers a larger screen to work on, freeing them from the constraints of small mousepads.
“Someone could be given a presentation and on the spot make edits with their hands,” he said. “There are so many limitations that come with a computer and sometimes you just need to pick up a pencil.”
Kini said members of Morse and Stiles will have access to the device in the shared theater, which has been installed permanently. ITS has yet to determine whether the Wiimote Whiteboards in WLH will be fixed permanently in classrooms or designed as portable units that can be checked out from Bass Library and used in any room that has a projector, Monroy said. ITS’s first priority is ensuring that the devices are safe and secure from theft, he said, adding that ITS administrators will meet with Kini on Friday to continue discussing student access to the devices in WLH.
Kini said the uses of Wiimote Whiteboards are endless, noting that engineers can employ the technology to modify designs, set designers to project background scenery in plays and section instructors to email class notes directly from the board to students.
Kini said he was inspired to propose implementing these devices at Yale after watching a TedTalk video last summer with Johnny Lee, the inventor of Wiimote Whiteboards.
“There is no better place to put this technology than in the hands of creative students,” Kini said. “This technology, it’s endless, it’s cheap and it’s now in the hands of kids who I know will be able to use it to extraordinary measures.”
Linsly-Chittenden Hall currently has six SMART Boards installed in rooms on the third floor.