13 December 2007

Wiimote Experiments

In the interest of time and money I’m giving the Wiimote a spin as I think about hardware for gourdo v.3. The Wiimote has 11 buttons and a 3D accelerometer transmitted wirelessly over Bluetooth for $40 US. They’re available for a similar price nearly everywhere – I got mine at Target in Seekonk, MA. SparkFun.com sells the accelerometer in the Wii (the Memsic ADXL330) for $34.95 and a variety of Bluetooth transmitters starting at around $50 US. They also sell a package they call the WiTilt with accelerometer data over Bluetooth for $109.95. In addition to cost, I’m exploring the Wiimote in hopes of an increase in data stability over gourdo v.2. My current solution and my preferred homemade Bluetooth solutions depend on Max’s serial object – something I’ve never had great luck with. In gourdo v.2 I learned that serial communication on the PC is de-prioritized in such a way that I receive data drops under heavy processor usage (in Mac tests the data was more reliable but audio was severely sacrificed). In the past I’d considered flaws with serial object implementations a product of my own limitations, but recent conversations with Emmanuel Fléty convinced me otherwise. Emmanuel abandoned serial in Max years ago (preferring instead the imperfections of MIDI), so I feel justified in so doing. With the Wiimote, I can use third-party Max externals which see the data as a human interface device (HID).

There is currently an excess of Wiimote "hacking" information of the web. Wikipedia.com’s page on the Wiimote is a good overview of the device and there is an excellent technical specification page at Wiili.org. SparkFun.com did an excellent Wiimote deconstruction with pictures and commentary. Hackawii.com has a page dedicated to Wiimote hacks showing some popular applications of the device.

The WIili.org driver page is the best place to start for getting the Wiimote connected a computer. I’m using an Acer 8204WLMi which happens to contain a Wiimote-compatable Broadcom 2045 Bluetooth device. I’m able to connect to the Wiimote using XP’s system software and successfully view the Wiimote data in Max/MSP using the tk.wii object by Takeru Kobayashi (linked from the forums at Cycling ’74). On Mac the preferred solution appears to be the aka.wiiremote object by Masayuki Akamatsu. I’ve not yet tested the object for Mac, but in a peek at the help patch it appears that the data formatting is different such that the objects cannot be used interchangeably. To maintain cross-platform compatibility I’ll likely make the data collection patch an outside entity which sends incoming data into the primary patch. The correct data collector can then be launched on the side depending on the current platform.

Connection to the Wiimote was simple and data was immediately available in Max so I have begun to test the Wiimote’s sample resolution and rate. While the Bluetooth supports audio transmission, the Wiimote inherits any limitations inherent to the HID protocol. An article on ddj.com reports that HID implemented “mice are polled for data every 8 ms, and respond with 32 bits of data” and that “a keyboard transmits 64 bits of data over the same interval.” Because greater sensitivity is unlikely necessary for such applications these restrictions help keep power usage down, an essential feature in wireless applications. While such information about the capacity of the protocols is interesting, real-world (read: Max) performance may vary. As such, I have spent relatively little time investigating these two technologies opting instead for max-based testing with my existing gourd patches.

Data from with tk.wii object is 8-bit data reported every 5.02 milliseconds on average (with a 4.90 median and 5.86 in one test). The data is represented as a 0.0-1.0 value the tilt of the controller occupying 21% of that range – tilt values for the X-and Y-axis range from 0.396 to 0.608 with sharp accelerations using the entire range. Substituting Wiimote data in my hit-detection patch where taps of the device are reported as triggers proved successful. The data rate doesn’t appear to be high enough, however, to support directional tapping detection reliably enough. With tapping, the difference between subsequent sensor values is sufficiently large to distinguish those actions from tilting. I use a rolling buffer to hold the last 20 sensor values reported and, when a hit is detected, search for the maximum and minimum values in that set. If the maximum value is larger than the absolute value of the minimum, the hit came from the right, if not, it came from the left. Because the sample rate is too low, the peak value is not always captured. When this occurs the “recoil” value is usually recorded and is the highest value in the set, causing the incorrect direction to be reported. The data rate is more than sufficient for tilting applications.

The next step is to try the Tilt, Shift patch with the Wiimote and see if the data resolution over the tilt region is sufficient for performance with the granulator. While gourdo v.2 featured 10-bit data resolution, I believe that 8-bit data over the tilt range would be sufficient. The data from the Wiimote, however, represents the tilt range with only 56 values (the full 256 are for the entire sensor range). My next testing step will be to connect the Wiimote to the Tilt, Shift granulator to see if I’m satisfied with its performance. This will be my first opportunity to physically test the latency of the tilt and see if it’s low enough.


Anonymous said...

we've been using wiiMotes here pretty extensively the last few months and have been highly pleased. I'm working on hacking together a IR led system to orient the accelerometers to use them as a cheapo wand/headtracker for VR stuff. Looks like I can make myself something that is an IR version of the intersense stuff minus a few zeros from the price tag. Everything we make at the museum needs to be cheap and childproof, or cheap enough that if it isnt totally child proof we can buy another one. I'm interested to see how things go on the pc end of things, right now we're doing everything on macs here with the wii's but it would be simpler for us to do them on windows or linux. does tk.wii give you access to the IR stuff?

matthew_pw said...

tk.wii does give you access to the IR. I'm on the road right now, but I'll try to get a screen shot posted in a day or two.

Anonymous said...

I have absolutely no idea what you've been writing about in this last post. I found it by accident today and wanted to say that we look foward to you coming over here.
See you soon!

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