The Wiinstrument is Not a Toy

Last week, I read about some really cool stuff a guy named Johnny Chung Lee is doing with the remote from a Wii console, thanks to a tweet by Joel Klampert. Turns out that the wiimote is much more than a simple game controller.

Many of us assumed that the wiimote was a typical "infrared gun" type remote pointing at the sensor bar you mount on your TV. Actually, the sensor bar has the lights in it, and the wiimote contains a tiny infrared camera at the end. (Point your cellphone camera at the sensor bar if you don't beleive me.) That, combined with an accelerometer and a bluetooth radio, give the wiimote its unique abilities. (For those fluent in geek-speak, details are here.)

Some college students at the Universitat Potsdam in Germany have developed an app called The Wiinstrument, which basically allows the wiimote to act as a MIDI controller and create music. The Wiinstrument comes in three beta-release flavors: Windows, Mac and Linux.

I downloaded the Windows version the other day, and commenced to try to use this puppy. Most of the documentation I've found tells you you need to install the Blue Soleil bluetooth stack to get the wiimote to sync to your PC, but I had absolutely no trouble using the Windows stack. It took a total of two minutes to sync the controller and get the program working. The basic process is this: launch the Windows bluetooth applet, go to "Add,"press the 1 and 2 buttons on the Wiimote. Boom. The controller was recognized using he "Human Interface Device" service, so it basically looks like a mouse to Windows.

Wiinstrument picked it up right away. There are three screens in the current beta release. One is a set-up screen with a cool accelerometer graph, one is a scale generator, and then there is the payoff - the virtual drum set. Using the Wii nunchuck, you can assign two voices on the scale screen - one for the wiimote and one for the nunchuck. On the drum set, the nunchuck is the kick bass, and the wiimote can operate one of several voices. Very cool.

The Wiinstrument is very limited in its current functionality, but the possibilities are limitless. I'd put money on seeing a wiimote on the next David Crowder* Band tour, given what they do with a Guitar Hero controller. I plan on trying the Linux version over the weekend, and seeing if I can import into Ardour.

OK, geeks, get to it! Here's a vid of the creators using drumstick mode:


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