Nintendo doesn't exactly advertise it, but the remotes for the Wii gaming console—including the balance board that comes with Wii Fit—have Bluetooth capabilities. That means you can connect your Wii peripherals to your computer to operate the media centre hooked up to your TV, play emulated games with a Nunchuk, Classic Controller, or even a Balance Board, and pretty much have them do anything you can do with a keyboard. Let's walk through linking up your Wii peripherals and putting them in control of your Mac, PC, or Linux box.
To give you an idea of what you can do with a Wii/PC hook-up, here's a look at one neat example: Controlling Windows Media Centre from a distance, without having to shell out for a separate remote control.
Do want? Let's get it set up.
Setting up Bluetooth in Windows
The first thing to do is ensure your computer or laptop has Bluetooth capabilities—if you don't see a Bluetooth icon in Windows' Control Panel, chances are it doesn't. If you still want to get in, you can often get a USB-connected Bluetooth dongle for very little cash ($5 and up). If you do have a Bluetooth receiver, make sure you're upgraded to the latest drivers—use Windows Update or check with your computer manufacturers' web site. Mac OS X and Linux users, you won't be using the same hook-ups or software, but we'll suggest some software that works similarly a bit further along.
Now to hook up your devices. We'll start with the basic Wii remote, or "Wiimote." There's only one way of doing it, but there are varying numbers of steps, depending on your software. If you've got software that can automatically seek out and hook up Bluetooth devices, start it up, hit 1 & 2 on the Wiimote, and you'll connect. If not, I recommend downloading a trial copy of BlueSoleil. The unregistered trial limits you to 2MB of file transfer between devices and the computer, but when you're just sending clicks and movements, that's a good amount of time—I haven't run out after a week's trial, so it might be 2MB per session. The unlocked copy is about $30 (19.95 in Euros).
You can also make do with Windows Vista's built-in Bluetooth software. Here's how you'll have to set up your device each time:
- Open up Windows' Bluetooth controls by right-clicking on a system tray icon or searching for it from the Start menu.
- Choose "Add" from the "Devices" tab. Hit the checkbox in the dialog that pops up saying your device is ready to be found.
- Before going further, hit the 1 & 2 buttons near the bottom of your remote. You'll have to either hold them down or hit them every 10 seconds or so until your remote is found.
- Once Windows finds your controller, named something like
RVL-CNT-01, double-click its icon to select it.
- Choose the "No passkey" option on the next screen, hit the Next button, and keep holding or re-clicking until Windows says your device is installed and ready.
The problem with this method is that you'll have to perform this "installation" each time you want to pair your Wiimote. If you've got the BlueSoleil software installed, it's much simpler—check out this how-to from WiiLi.org for screen-by-screen instructions on pairing your Wiimote.
Setting up GlovePIE
Programmer Carl Kenner designed his GlovePIE app to manipulate his computer using a virtual reality glove, but it's expanded to take input from a whole bunch of devices, including Wii gear, and translate it into mouse and keyboard actions.
To get started, download the latest version of GlovePIE from Kenner's site. Unzip the GlovePIE folder out of the package, place it somewhere accessible (like the Program Files folder), make a shortcut to the GlovePIE application and run it. You'll see a white screen at first, with tabs for "Untitled" (the name of your script right now), GUI, and Variables. Click on "GUI" and let's get started.
You'll see two buttons near the top: Detect Output to Emulate, and Detect Input. Hit the "Output" key on the left, then click the left mouse button again; it'll catch your movement and highlight a "LeftButton" item. Click "Detect Input," then click the "A" button on your Wiimote. It should catch the click and show that you've hit the "A" button on "Wiimote 1."
If it doesn't, head to the "TroubleShooter" menu in the upper right, check the "Bluetooth Fix" option, and try again. If you're still not catching Wiimote signals, try re-pairing your device. Once you've got the mouse click and "A" button entered, hit "Apply," and feel free to try out a few more combinations—your arrow keys to the Wii's directional pad, the "Home" button to the Windows key, or whatever else. Now head back to the "Untitled" tab, and see the small script you've created simply by matching up key presses to Wii actions. Hit the "Run" button on GlovePIE, and your script starts working. Hit "Stop," and the mouse and keys take over.
GlovePIE can also catch input from an attached Nunchuk or Classic Controller. More importantly, though, it can sense movements in both the controller alone (velocity movement) and from a sensor bar. That's right—you can turn on your Wii and move the mouse using its sensor bar, or you can convert or build your own. It's not as hard as it might sound, given that the Wii's "sensor bar" is actually just a few strategically spaced LED lights in a plastic shell. Instructables has a few tutorials for DIY bars, as does MAKE magazine. You can even make your Wii sensor bar wireless with $8 in parts and no soldering required.
Luckily, GlovePIE enthusiasts have made a wealth of scripts available for some pretty clever Wiimote uses. A Google search might turn up one for a specific app you'd like to control from afar, but the gracious folks at the Wii Linux wiki have made a wealth of great ones available. To use one, just copy its code, paste it into GlovePIE, then save it from the File menu. Here's a few notable scripts to pique your interest:
- EDmouse Arrow-keys: Turns the Wiimote directional pad into a mouse, with a gradual increase in speed as you hold. Adjust the value after
var.velotopto increase the top speed, and add your left and right mouse buttons to A and B for full mouse control.
- EDmouse IR or Carl's IR Mouse: Uses sensor bar/infrared movement to control the mouse. Each has its own strengths and quirks, but both do the job fine.
- Emulator scripts: There are scripts to turn your Wiimote into a classic NES controller on its side, to combine it with a Nunchuk or Classic Controller for SNES emulators, and many more scripts for emulators and specific games.
- Guitar Hero/Rock Band scripts: For playing the Guitar Hero clone Frets on Fire or using the guitar as a MIDI instrument.
- Windows Media Center and Xbox Media Center remotes: The XBMC controller uses the web server interface to select and play your stuff, while the Windows controller cleverly combines two control sets—hit "1" and you move through media, hit "2" to control what's currently playing (as shown in the video near the top).
What about the Balance Board?
Making the Balance Board control your computer is almost exactly the same process as with the Wiimote. You use the same Bluetooth software and setup, but where you'd hit the 1 and 2 buttons on the Wiimote to make it discoverable, you'll be hitting the tiny syncing nub inside the battery cover on the bottom of the Balance Board (pictured at right). Hitting it once should give you enough time to finish the sync in Vista (or OS X or Linux), but you can hit it a few times to keep it going. Once you're synced up, you can plug in scripts that use the balance board as gas pedals (as demonstrated by a Need for Speed fan), or surf the web with your feet using Firefox. There aren't a ton of great scripts for the complex device right now, but I wouldn't bet against seeing some soon—two German programmers, for example, have already found a way to surf Google Earth using their board.
Mac and Linux users
GlovePIE isn't available for Mac or Linux systems, although there's an open-source version getting attention. Luckily, there's more than one program that can map your Wii peripherals to input actions, and hooking up Bluetooth gear to Mac and Linux systems is likely easier than in Windows. Here are your best bets:
Mac OS X: Syncing your Wiimote to OS X (10.4 and higher) is a simple matter of activating your Mac's Bluetooth scanner, hitting the 1 and 2 buttons, and waiting for the link to be made.
Of all the apps that handle Wiimote input for a Mac, Remote Buddy has the most user-friendly interface for use and programming, but it's proprietary, paid software (19.99 in Euros). The free GlovePIE equivalent is DarwiinRemote, which features similar button-to-action mapping and support for sensor bar movement.
Linux: Many modern distributions carry their own preferred Wii-interfacing tools in their repositories. Ubuntu, for example, offers the command line tool Wminput, amongst others. I used Wminput and this guide to control the Elisa media centre with a Wiimote, and it worked flawlessly—though it obviously required some terminal work.
Wminput is actually a re-packaging of the Cwiid project, the closest GlovePIE equivalent for Linux, offering a GUI for mapping controls, a testing panel, and open-ended functionality. The Ubuntu Forums have a good walk-through of setting up Cwiid on your system; do a little searching, and you'll likely find one for your own distro.
It's easy to get started creating, combining, and modifying existing Wii-PC scripts to use the Wii's wireless devices for all kinds of neat/lazy purposes. What kind of control scripts have you found or made on your own? What clever uses can you find for the Wiimote and other peripherals on any platform? Tell us your clever creations in the comments.