Nintendo Wii

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1 Definition

The Nintendo Wii is a video video gaming console that has attracted some attention because of its creative new user interface paradigm based on the Wiimote controller and various extensions like the Nunchuk. The standard Wiimote controller is a pointing device (like a mouse) and it can detect acceleration in three dimensions. An increasing variety of extensions can then be hooked up to this device.

The interest for educational technologists is that control styles associated with the new input devices make it easier using a computer, at least for applications like games or edutainment software. There exist various forms of controller extensions (e.g. guns, a tennis racket, a guitar) and that enable very different control styles. According to Wikipedia, initial reception of this new paradigm was mixed and the authors speculated that this was due to the inexperience game programmers still have with this technology. Anyhow, these interfaces also may change the way we interact with other software, e.g. a web browser. The Wii can connect to the Internet through WiFi and a browser is available for about 5$, i.e. some kids may get in touch with the Web through the Wii first. On the other hand, it is possible to hook up Wii controllers with bluetooth devices, i.e. we can start using a wiimote or a sword with our desktops.

2 Hardware

2.1 Processor and other chips

  • CPU: PowerPC-based "Broadway" (IBM), similar to Gamecube.
  • GPU: ATI "Holliwood"
  • RAM: 512MB Flash Memory, up to 2GB expansion with and SD card

(see the Wikipedia article for more details)

2.2 Wiimote

  • The Wii Remote or Wiimote is the principal standard video game controller.
    • Wiimote (Wili) Overview for programmers.
    • Wii Remote (Wikipedia, read this to learn about various extensions).
    • Wiimote/Drivers Lists various drivers for various hardware to be used with other computers.

The Wiimote communicates through Bluetooth. Its controller follows the Bluetooth Human Interface Device (HID) standard and is based on the USB HID standard.

It has:

  • 12 buttons
  • A motion (and acceleration) sensor
  • An Infrared (IR) sensor (that gets input from the "sensor bar")

So-called expansions then can be plugged into this controller.

To use this with a computer, e.g. a Windows PC you need 3-4 things:

  • A bluetooth adaptor card (on most laptops I think), else you can buy a cheap "Bluetooth dongle" that plugs into a USB slot.
  • Maybe you have to try a replacement Bluetooth driver and software like BlueSoleil
  • A Wii driver on Windows (e.g. WiinRemote or GlovePie)
  • Then in order to interface the controller with the bluetooth, you will have to follow a given procedure depending on the Bluetooth driver.
    • In any case you always have to put the Wiimote controller into discoverable mode by either pressing the 1 and 2 buttons at the same time, or by pressing the red sync button under the battery cover.

See howtos for Windows: Widcomm or BlueSoleil or this Control your PC with a Wiimote overview.

2.3 Nunchuk

The Nunchuk is the standard game controller expansion. “It features an analog stick similar to the one found on the Nintendo GameCube controller and two trigger buttons. It works in tandem with the main controller in many games. Like the Wiimote, the Nunchuk controller also provides accelerometer for motion-sensing, but no rumble.” (Wiimote/Extension Controllers/Nunchuk, WiiLi, retrieved 18:25, 14 April 2008 (UTC)).

The Nunchuk connects to the Wiimote through a cable.

2.4 Classic Controller

The Classic Controller is a more traditional gaming console gamepad. It also connects with a cable to the Wiimote.

2.5 Sensor Bar

  • The Sensor Bar allows the Wii Remote to be used as an accurate pointing device up to 5 meters (approx. 16 ft) away from the bar. It is needed for some of the Wiimote's functions. If I understand right it's not a "sensor" but rather the opposite, it has 2 groups of LEDs that produce IR beams for the Wiimote. Now I wonder if this could be hooked up to another device like a PC ?

2.6 Balance board

Currently (April 2008), it is sold together with a game called Wii fit (ASIN B0015KT5SC) fro about $85 Euros. This device like wiimote, conntects through bluetooth with the console. It seems to have four sensors: top/left bottom/left top/right bottom/right.

Daniel K. Schneider thinks that user control is amazingly precise (compared for instance to the infra-red driven cursor of the wiimote). Also the precision of the balance seems to quite good.

See the Nintendo Wii balance board article for more discussion.

2.7 Others

There are lots of other controller extensions, some from Nintendo some from third parties. E.g.

  • Guns
  • Golf clubs
  • Boxing gloves
  • Steering wheel
  • Sword and Shield
  • Fighting stick
  • Guitar
  • ....

2.8 Keyboard

  • A USB keyboard is available and its supported by the Internet channel.

3 In education

  • There are edutainment games for the Wii (not discussed here). As any gaming console, it's just a computer for which any kind of application can be programmed ...
  • Nintendo via Internet Channel can be a delivery box for XHTML (particularly DHTML) and Flash programs, i.e. interactive web applications. This is the easiest way to use this hardware for eduction.
  • Otherwise we have to see what kinds of applications will be made for Nintendo controllers hooked up to other computers. Read on ...

4 Repurposing of Wii or Wii devices

There exist several ways to extend the Wii in ways not originally planned:

  1. The Nintendo Wii's input devices can be repurposed. Most popular hacks seem to interface the video controllers with an other computer (Win/Mac/Linux) which is easy since they use a Bluetooth connection and then to write software for this (which is less easy). There exist several projects (see below)
  2. The most simple ways to profit from Wii is to write code for the Internet Channel and which is based on Opera. It's JavaScript implementation has extensions, e.g. window.opera.wiiremote
  3. The most difficult way is to crack the hardware, allowing to running your own programs with full hardware access. E.g. as explained in The Wii, officially "hacked".
  4. There exist a number of modchips you can (at your risk) install to modify or disable built-in restrictions of the Wii, e.g. so-called region coding that prohibits from importing games from an other region.

Below are some interesting projects with links and most have to do with using Wii input devices with other computers. It's not complete and been tested by the authors of this article (!)

4.1 GlovePIE

GlovePIE is software (i.e. a Driver) to control Games with Gestures, Speech, and Other Input Devices! Among other hardware, it interfaces with Nintendo Wii Remote and Nunchuk.

This library has been used to replace the keyboard for video game playing on PC.

  • Wii Script is a website that includes a range of Wii Scripts based on GlovePie.
  • WiiLi (Gnu/Linux port for the Nintendo Wii) has another collection of GlovePIE Scripts
  • Read the documentation that comes with the zip file (readme.txt and documentation.rtf !)

4.2 Wiinremote

  • Home. A Japanese library (driver and program).

4.3 Wiimote Commander

  • WiimoteCommander is a Java library to connect wiimotes (and extensions) to a PC. Like GlovePIE and WiiLi.

4.4 DarwinRemote

  • DarwiinRemote MacOSX driver and program that reads/sends data to Wii.

4.5 Wiimote project

(Johnny Chung Lee's projects)

4.6 Internet Channel programming

The Internet Channel is a modified Opera browser that connects through WIFI to the Internet. It supports the same web functionalities and standards that are included in the desktop versions of Opera, including CSS and JavaScript. On the other hand, it only seems to support Flash 7 (April 2008). This browser is not included when you buy the Wii. It will cost 500 Wii Points (about 5 Euros).

See the Wii Internet Channel article for more information.


5 Links

5.1 Official sites

5.2 Overviews

  • Wii (Wikipedia)

5.3 Website - Extending Wii hardware or software

(various contents, to sort out)

  • Wii homebrew (Wikipedia overview) refers to the reuse of Nintendo's Wii game console hardware, accessories and software for purposes outside of those intended by the manufacturer. Key objectives are to provide open source tools to expand or alter the capabilities provided "out of the box".
  • WiiLi Wii for Linux, but includes a lot of useful information + scripts for other systems.
  • Internet Channel (Wikipedia). This is a version of the Opera 9 web browser for use on the Wii by Opera Software and Nintendo.