Use a Wii Remote to Navigate Google Reader

The Nintendo Wii Remote is one of the most easy-to-use game controllers around, but did you know that you can use it to control your computer? The "Wiimote" makes a great tool for a lot of different applications, from Photoshop to Half Life. I’ve found it to be especially useful with Google Reader; see just how useful it is in the two-and-a-half minute video below.

You’ll find detailed instructions on how to set this up in the extended entry. Don’t worry, this is a really easy hack.

Background

Tablet PC’s are great tools for Photoshop, where you can use the pressure-sensitive pen to do subtle detail work on photos. The problem is that when the computer is in tablet mode, you don’t have access to the keyboard. This means that you can’t use the Alt, Ctrl, and Shift keys that Photoshop uses to modify different commands. (For example, if you’re drawing a selection box, holding down the Shift key will constrain that box to a square, rather than a rectangle.)

So I started looking for a way to add a few new buttons to my computer. Some external keypads, designed mainly for first person shooter games, might have worked, but they were generally either too expensive or badly designed for what I needed. Plus, they all used USB, which meant that I’d have to have another wire attached to my computer. I’d vastly prefer a wireless solution to keep things from getting cluttered.

Eventually I found a forum thread discussing the same problem. One of the users, rayguntheater, mentioned that he used a Wii Remote to control some common tasks in Photoshop. From his comment I found GlovePIE and from there I was able to find everything I needed to use the Wiimote to control my computer.

I started out with a basic Photoshop script, and then I realized that the Wiimote would be a great tool to use with Google Reader. A little scripting later, and I have the script shown in the video above.

How to connect the Wiimote to your computer

All you need is a computer with Bluetooth, a Wii Remote, and some free software called GlovePIE. Here’s a quick video demonstrating how I connected my Wiimote to my laptop running Vista.

Since you really can’t see the screen very well in this video, here are those instructions again, step-by-step:

  1. Double click on the Bluetooth Icon in the system tray
  2. Click "Add"
  3. Check the box that says "My device is set up and ready to be found"
  4. Push the 1 & 2 button in the Wiimote so that it will start trying to connect
  5. Click "Next" and wait for a moment
  6. Click on the Nintendo RVL-CNT-01
  7. Click "Next"
  8. Click "Don’t use a passkey"
  9. Click "Next" and wait a moment
  10. Click "Finish"
  11. Click on the Nintendo RVL-CNT-01 in the Bluetooth Devices Panel
  12. Click "Properties"
  13. Push the 1 & 2 button in the Wiimote again
  14. Click the "Services" tab and wait a moment
  15. Check the box for "Drivers for Keyboard, Mice, etc. (HID)"
  16. Click "OK" and wait for a moment while Windows installs the drivers
  17. You should be good to go. The scrolling lights in the last few seconds of the video won’t show up unless you’re running the GlovePIE script from the next section.

I have found that I have to repeat this process whenever I restart my laptop. You might have better luck.

Note: I’m using the standard Microsoft Bluetooth software under Windows Vista. If you’re using another program (e.g. the WIDCOMM stack, Bluesoleil, or Toshiba’s Bluetooth drivers) or Windows XP, your screens will be different.

I don’t know much about Bluetooth; if you need help, your best bet is WiiLi.org; in particular, their list of compatible and incompatible Bluetooth devices is helpful.

How to Navigate Google Reader with a Wii Remote

Download Google Reader GlovePIE script (Right click and Save As).

To get this running, just open GlovePIE. From there click File – Open, and then select the Google Reader GlovePIE script, then click the Run button.

Once you have the script running, open Google Reader. Here’s what you can do with it, as you can see in the video:

  • Navigate up and down through the story list using the Up and Down keys on the Wiimote
  • Show/Hide the sidebar using the Left key
  • Open the story in its original context using the Right key
  • Close a tab with the B key
  • Star/Unstar a story with the Minus key
  • Share/Unshare a story with the Plus key
  • Mark a story as read/unread with the Home key
  • Move up or down one line using the 1 and 2 keys
  • Show only one tag by pushing the A key, using the up and down keys to select a tag, then pushing the A key again. (Press B to cancel out of this mode)
  • Show all of the stories again by shaking the Wiimote

Conclusion

I hope you all find this useful. My next step is to figure out how to make the 1 and 2 keys go page up and page down when you hold them down. Let me know if you find this useful or if you have any feedback.

Update 1: Updated the script to have the 1 and 2 keys repeated press Up and Down on the keyboard, eliminating the need for pageup/pagedown functionality.

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