This essay reflects on the presentation held by Jonny Lee which was broadcasted by Ted-talk on April 2008. Lee is a modern age inventor who focusses his research and designs on the modification and simplification of applications and technologies. A benefit for the broad public is one of his greater goals motivating his work. This particular presentation furthermore explains how to use a simple Wii remote controller together with a projector or screen to build up an interactive screen or even to simulate a 3-Dimensional (3D) feeling on a flat display. The basic idea for the modified use came from a simple game with the Nintendo Wii remote controller. By the producers definition the device “responds to motion and rotation for enhanced control as you swing, swipe, thrust, or turn the controller” (Nintendo, 2012). In order to detect these sense motions the Nintendo Wii console uses a built in high performing infrared camera. This particular aspect of the remote’s functions became the focus for further research. The capability of the controller to detect motions offered, in Lee’s opinion, huge potential for a modified use of the technology.
What he furthermore decided was to use the remote controller, with the infrared camera on top, together with a projector, to build his own interactive screen. His invention basically uses three hardware components and the conformable software to control the hardware. The modification of the single parts consists of the following three steps: First there is the computer connected to a projector which allows him to display his information onto the wall. Second there is the Wii remote control which is located next to the projector so that it is possible to track the movements onto the screen. The third part is a sort of pointer or pen. The pen is essentially build out of a battery, a button and has a small infrared LED on the top. By pressing the button the infrared camera will know the location of the infrared LED. Lee designed the conformable software in order to control the Wii remote and the infrared pen. The software allows the system to recognize the movements of the pointer and interprets it as a mouse input device. After the initialization of all the hardware components Lee was not only able to use his pen on the screen and move things on his desktop, but also able to write.
In addition to that the ability of the infrared camera, to recognize multiple dots, makes the created whiteboard a multi-touch interactive whiteboard. So with two LED pens Lee is able to rotate objects displayed on the screen. Further research, using the same technologies led him to another great invention: The creation of a 3D feeling when someone is seated in front of the screen. For this invention the Wii remote control needs to be placed next to a TV pointing away from the display. This allows the Wii remote’s infrared camera to detect movement directly in front of the TV. Instead of using an infrared pen Lee connected the infrared LED on the left and right side of a pair of glasses. The fact that the Wii remote is pointing away from the TV, the camera is able to locate the position of the pair of glasses in front of the display. The software behind Lee’s system is displaying a picture of a 3 dimensional room. Sitting in front of the TV the picture will just appear as a 3D picture on a 2D screen.
Using now the pair of glasses with the infrared LED’s attached, the system recognizes the point of view the user has in front of the screen and changes the displayed picture in the same angle the user is looking at the picture. This creates the impression for the user that he would actually look at a 3D object. In fact of analysing and designing systems Lee discovered the great potential of the high-performing camera and used it not only for his own purposes, but shared it with the rest of the world. He stated in a presentation on TED talks: “As researchers, something that we often do is use immense resources to achieve capabilities, or achieve certain goals. And this is essential to the progress of science, or exploration of what is possible” (Johnny Lee, TED talk Demos Wii Remote hacks, 2008).
He also mentioned that when he published a video about his invention, one week later already half a million people had seen his work. After putting up the software for free download, within day’s people from all around the world tried to reproduce or even used the technology for new inventions. Overall Lee demonstrates that analysing current technologies and thinking outside the box, might give the opportunity to create something complete different. “It sort of creates this unfortunate situation where a tiny, tiny fraction of the world can actually participate in this exploration or can benefit from that technology” (Johnny Lee, TED talk Demos Wii Remote hacks, 2008). Sharing new inventions or ideas with the world instead of selling them off to huge companies for big money almost becomes a noble act for the open source community and helps to bring the world a step further.
Johnny Lee, April 2008 (http://www.ted.com/talks/johnny_lee_demos_wii_remote_hacks.html) Nintendo © 2012, (http://www.nintendo.com/wii/what-is-wii/#/controls)