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| Wii Remote: the PC revolution? (7 comments )|
by: Power666 (25) | Posted in cluster Editors Challenge Sponsored by Intel Round 2
Posted 75 months ago ( edited 75 months ago ) in category DEFAULT
Wii Remote: the PC revolution?
|» MEDIA (10)|
Table 1: Wii remote drivers (924 x 356)
Picture 1: WiinRemote (500 x 832)
Picture 2: RMX Automaion install (508 x 400)
Picture 3: RMX Automation configuration (604 x 468)
Picture 4: DarwiinRemote running (800 x 600)
Picture 5: DarwiinRemote configuration (800 x 680)
Picture 6: DarwiinRemote 'nothing' (800 x 680)
Picture 7: Remote Buddy menu (336 x 360)
Picture 8: Remote Buddy overlay (1200 x 576)
Picture 9: Remote Buddy browsing (650 x 600)
Nintendo is a familiar name when it comes to console gaming. Once the dominant gaming figure in people's living rooms 20 years ago, the company has been losing market share ever since. The Wii is Nintendo's fifth major console release and the company not only hopes to turn around their decline in the market but also invigorate the entire gaming industry with innovation.
The center piece of Nintendo's strategy is its controller, the Wii remote. The core concept is its implementation of motion sensing technology. Gamers swing, move and rotate the controller to create action on screen. The Nintendo revealed their new controller at Tokyo Game Show 2005 using the console's code name of 'Revolution'. Opinions were mixed then if the 'Revolution' would live up to its project name. Considering Nintendo's success so far with the Wii and the selection of innovative titles like Rayman Raving Rabbids and Wario Ware: Smooth Moves, the answer appears to be yes.
Yet, Nintendo isn't the only company using motion sensing technology to improve the user experience. Sony's PS3 controllers carry the name SIXAXIS to highlight its motion sensing technology. Apple's soon to be released iPhone uses it to correctly detect its orientation (landscape or portrait) with respect to the user. Some laptops have a motion sensor not for user interface functions but to protect the machine from falls or sudden bumps. However, gaming will still be the most noticeable use of this technology.
So what does the Wii remote have anything to do with PC gaming? The answer is how the Wii remote communicates with its host console - through Bluetooth. The standardized wireless protocol for keyboards and mice on PC has crept into console territory. The developer community has taken advantage of Nintendo's use of standard technology to create drivers for the Wii remote. Thus, all the innovations Nintendo presents to console owners can now be accessed by computer users.
Wii remote drivers
As mentioned before, the Wii remote is a simple Bluetooth device like many wireless keyboards and mice. However, users cannot simply sync a Wii remote with a PC and immediately use it for gaming. The one thing holding back gamers from using the Wii remote with computers are the necessary drivers. The home brew community has stepped up to the challenge surprisingly fast with numerous solutions made available within months of the Wii's release.
The usage of third party drivers does possess a downside. Number of features, driver stability, level of testing and compatibility with applications is not going to be at the same level as if Nintendo were to release their own public driver. Despite these limitations, various drivers are at the level in their respective release notes to attempt some old fashioned PC gaming with the latest input revolution.
Wii remote drivers are available for several platforms. Windows, Linux and Mac users all get their chance to utilize the Wii remote. While a more detailed look at WiinRemote, RMX Automation, DarwiinRemote and Remote Buddy are presented here, they are not the only drivers available. GlovePIEi provide Windows users an additional choice. The Linux drivers available include cWiid, WMD, and lg3d-wii. What features a driver supports varies widely, so take a look at Table 1.
In addition to the necessary Wii remote drivers, there needs to be a Bluetooth protocol stack for the driver to interface with. MS provides a BlueTooth stack for Windows, but it reportedly has numerous issues with the Wii remote. Users can use the alternative driver BlueSoleil which works with many Bluetooth receivers as a replacement . BlueSoleil comes bundled with several Bluetooth adapters, though the downloadable version only supports 5 MB of data until it is registered for 5.99 Euros. A Zoom USB Bluetooth adapter is used for testing and the adapter comes with its own Bluetooth stack for Windows.
The WiinRemote is a stand alone driver for Windows . The configuration options and calibration support within WiinRemote make this the ideal candidate, in theory, to replace a keyboard and mouse for gaming. Mouse cursor emulation can be done via motion sensing, IR sensor (which requires the Wii's sensor bar) or nunchuk. Keyboard commands can be remapped to Wii remote buttons. Rumble is present and WiinRemote can be set to vibrate the controller whenever the cursor hits the edge of the screen.
Setting up WiinRemote (see Picture 1) and running it is relatively painless aside from one quirky step. For WiinRemote to work, the PC needs to already have a connection with the Wii remote . Installation of the driver is done by extracting the zip file and running the WiinRemote application. WiinRemote has to be constantly running, but it can be minimized into a system tray icon. One issue with WiinRemote running is waking from sleep. The cursor constantly moves toward the lower right hand of the screen until a user logs in. Once the desktop returns, mouse emulation functions normally again. Under the observation of Windows Task Manager, CPU usage would periodically peak at 2% during testing but for most of the time the burden of running WiinRemote is negligible. For those curious to see WiinRemote in action, its creators uploaded a YouTube video for everyone to see .
Using the Wii remote in Windows XP for media center functionality is easy. Mouse emulation for GUI applications is surprisingly good. Controlling applications like WMP and iTunes operates as expected.
In contrast, attempting to use WiinRemote for gaming didn't prove to be successful. Unreal Tournament 2004 does not allow motion sensing to emulate mouse movement for looking around, but the keys mapped to the Wii remote for left and right click worked fine. DOOM3 and Far Cry operates the same as Unreal Tournament 2004 with only the mapped button functions working. The cursor in FEAR's menu system works fine, but when it came to actually playing the game, it would only respond to the buttons set up for left and right click. Even strategy games like LotR: Battle for Middle Earth 2 suffer from the same issue.
Half-Life 2 was the only test game that was an exception when it came to WiinRemote. It would be fully playable using only the Wii remote and nunchuk if movement keys could be mapped to the the analog stick on the nunchuk. A gamer can play using either the motion sensing of the Wii remote or nunchuk with a keyboard but the feeling of character control is highly unnatural.
Ultimately WiinRemote is a well written piece of novelty software for media center functionality, but an utter failure when it comes to gaming. The reasons for the lack of full mouse emulation in games may be beyond the control of WiinRemote's current implementation. Future revisions of the driver may eventually unlock the potential of Wii remote for PC gaming, but not today.
RMX is an open source event handler that is used to link input devices to specific functions. In this regard, RMX should not be viewed solely as a Wii remote driver. RMX uses a plugin architecture to add device support and a Wii remote plugin is available with version 1.4 . Nunchuk and classic controller support are present.
Installing RMX Automation is not complicated, but users have to manually select the Wii remote plug-in since it is not included by default (see picture 2). It appears that the installer connects online to grab a few components which some people may find annoying. To use RMX Automation with the Wii remote, Windows must already have a Bluetooth connection with the Wii remote . The amount of CPU time RMX Automation holds is negligable with it peaking to 3% on the test system. The application will minimize to a system tray icon and needs to be continually running.
As hinted by the need to specifically install a plug-in, RMX Automation does not let users start the application and use the Wii remote (see picture 3). The program requires a bit of careful configuration to get it to work as desired. Even after configuration, using the Wii remote to control the mouse cursor in Windows is quirky. The intuitive way of moving the cursor would be to point the Wii remote to the left side of the screen and the cursor moves left, point to the right side of the screen and the cursor moves right etc. By configuring accelerometer 1 for horizontal mouse movement and accelerometer 2 for vertical mouse movement nearly works for proper mouse emulation. The mouse cursor tends to move left and movement is jerky moving right using the Wii remote in this intuitive fashion. The cursor can move horizontally with ease by rotating the controller like a steering wheel. Those who have played GT Pro on the Wii will be familiar with this concept. The catch for this steering wheel control is that one can easily move it vertically with the same action. Motion sensing, the main feature of the Wii remote, proves to be RMX Automation's fatal flaw. RMX Automation is able to move the cursor according to this configuration when waking the PC from sleep, but the mouse buttons do not work to select a user.
Attempts to configure RMX automation to use the IR sensor bar for mouse emulation failed despite apparent support within the program. Configuring the mouse cursor to use the nunchuk's analog stick works fine.
Despite the quirks with using the Wii remote in Windows, attempts were made to play games to see what would work. DOOM3 and Far Cry only respond to the buttons configured to left and right mouse clicks. FEAR's menu system would respond with cursor movement for menus, but only buttons set up to emulate left and right mouse clicks worked in game. Half-Life 2 works with both the quirky motion sensing of the Wii remote and the nunchuk's analog stick. However, without any sort of sensitivity setting in RMX, looking around was difficult. Adjusting mouse sensitivity with in Half-Life 2 only reduces the magnitude of this problem. If it were not for the hypersensitivity, Half-Life 2 would be playable using the nunchuk for looking and the D-pad for movement. LofR: Battle for Middle Earth 2 works with RMX Automation using motion sensing and the nunchuk. Motion sensing had the same flaws as seen in Windows Explorer, but using the nunchuk's analog stick is a good alternative. Using the analog stick instead of the mouse is not horrifying experience, but it doesn't seem to be quite right to use in a strategy game.
RMX Automation may be a useful tool for other input devices. But due to issues with the Wii remote, its utility is lost. Some serious reworking needs to be done with how motion sensing is handled before RMX Automation can be used for either media center functions or gaming.
OS X users have options of using the Wii remote with their computers as well. DarwiinRemote v0.5 is a fully functional driver for Mac users . DarwiinRemote supports a long list of features: motion sensing, IR sensing, mouse emulation, nunchuk, classic controller and rumble.
Installation after its disk image has mounted is a simple drag-and-drop affair with the executable. Apple provides the Bluetooth stack so nothing else needs to be installed. Setting up the Wii remote in OS X is done through the DarwiinRemote application, including synchronizing with the Wii remote. The application has to remain running to use the Wii remote. It continually pumps out a graph displaying the motion sensor readings including the one found inside a connected nunchuk (see picture 4). CPU utilization hovers around 15% according to the command line utility top. Although labeled as experimental and unstable software, no system or DarwiinRemote crashes were experienced during testing.
Mouse emulation is supported from either IR sensor or the motion sensors. The IR support requires use of the Wii's sensor bar, but attempts to sync the Wii remote with the Mac prove to be futile while the Wii console is on. The Wii remote syncs to its native console instead of the computer. Nyko makes a wireless sensor bar that would likely eliminate this problem, but none were handy for testing . Rumble is supported according to documentation. As expected, no instances of rumble functioning were noticed during testing due to the lack of rumble support in the tested applications.
DarwiinRemote offers programmable button support across the all of Nintendo's accessories (see picture 5). The nunchuk buttons and analog stick work according to how they are programmed. Considering that the nunchuk analog stick can only be told to do 'nothing', it works as configured (see picture 6)
DarwiinRemote works flawlessly with GUI applications. Those who are familiar with the Wii's Opera based browser will find web surfing with just the Wii remote very similar. People looking to use applications like VLC or iTunes from your couch will be pleased.
When it comes to light gaming tests, DarwiinRemote has its share of issues. The mouse cursor in Diablo 2 is able to move horizontally but vertically proves to be a challenge when in full screen mode. The cursor floats to the top of the screen and cannot be moved down to play the game. In windowed mode, DarwiinRemote does not have this odd restriction. Considering the click-fest that is Diablo 2, this may be a playable solution for some. Neverwinter Nights suffers from the same problem as Diablo 2. In full screen mode, the mouse would float to the top of the screen and be stuck there but horizontal movement has no issues. When Neverwinter Nights runs in windowed mode, the game plays fine using mouse emulation via motion sensing.
With further refinement DarwiinRemote can easily be a mouse replacement for all applications. As DarwiinRemote stands right now, it is best used as an alternative for a mouse in media center applications. Masochistic Mac gamers can find some utility but are still better off with using a mouse.
Another Wii remote driver for OS X can be found inside of Remote Buddy . Like RMX Automator for Windows, Remote Buddy focuses on configuring user input devices towards specific application functions. Mouse emulation is not supported at all, and thus kills any attempt at gaming (insert joke about Mac gaming here). Nunchuk, classic controller, internal speaker and rumble support are also missing. Installation of Remote Buddy uses the common drag-and-drop method once the disk image is mounted. The application needs to be continuously running to use the Wii remote. By default, however, the application will appear only as a menu at the top of the screen instead of an icon in the Dock (see picture 7). Remote Buddy does have a downside of being a shareware application. Users can run the program for 60 days before paying nearly 10 Euros.
Despite the missing Wii remote-centric features, Remote Buddy is a great tool for entertainment purposes. Remote Buddy emulates the interface found in iPods with a clean overlay (see picture 8). Users can easily select running applications, browse through the hard drive and changing screen resolutions are among the simple functions immediately available through the interface. Controlling applications like VLC and iTunes is straightforward and easy. Users have extensive control over Remote Buddy's configuration if the defaults do not please.
Considering the nature of Remote Buddy, there motion sensing and IR sensing support may never appear. There is no other application that uses the Wii remote better for media center functionality, Mac or PC. Its excellent living room style support is countered by its small shareware fee while the alternatives are free and offer mouse emulation.
As interesting as it is to use the Wii remote with a computer, its ultimate utility is at the mercy of the current state of drivers. Those looking for a remote to control media center applications from their living room will find the Wii remote to be a viable solution. Is such functionality worth buying a Wii remote exclusively for? With more PC-centric alternatives available and supported in an official capacity, the answer is likely no. People who already own a Wii and a wireless media center computer should really look at these drivers since they do not have to pay anything for additional functionality. Those tempted by the thought of using the Wii remote for gaming will have to keep that idea in their head. Until the drivers can do mouse emulation inside of games, the only titles that the Wii remote will prove useful for are those designed for the Wii itself.
Hardware and software used for testing
Two computers were used in testing the Wii remote with the following configurations.
Athlon 64 3400+
Gigabyte K8NS Pro
2 GB of RAM
Seagate 320 GB model 7200.10 SATA2 hard drive
ATI Radeon 9800 Pro 256 MB video card
Windows XP SP2 (32 bit)
PowerMac G4 'Sawtooth'
GigaDesigns 1.8 Ghz G4 CPU upgrade
384 MB of RAM
eVGA GeforceFX 5200 256 MB video card (flashed for Mac use)
Mac OS X 10.4.8
(The OS X 10.4.9 update was released during testing and not used. it does note Bluetooth changes).
Zoom Bluetooth USB adapter Model 4310
Toshiba Bluetooth stack (included with Zoom Bluetooth USB adapter).
Nintendo Wii remote
Unreal Tournement 2004 for Windows
Lord of the Rings: Battle for Middle Earth 2 Demo for Windows
Half-Life 2 Demo for Windows
DOOM 3 Demo for Windows
FEAR Demo for Windows
Diablo II for Mac
Neverwinter Nights for Mac
RMX Automation Standalone v1.4 (20070119)
OS X drivers:
Remote Buddy v1.0 Preview 12 (RC1)
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