Kara Babcock

I read, write, code, and knit.

Using a Wiimote to control iTunes

Note: This post was written before I realized I was trans and/or before I came out online. As such, I might refer to myself as a man or use my deadname. Please read my name policy to understand how you should refer to me.

A couple of months ago, I stumbled across a way to create a low-cost interactive whiteboard using a Wiimote. All that was required was a Wiimote (for its infrared camera), an infrared-emitting pen, and a flat surface. The Wiimote would track the pen across the surface and report its coordinates back to the computer program, which could then draw, trigger controls, or whatever you wantetd it to do.

I don't own a Wii, so I bought a Wiimote alone. I couldn't get the pen working properly, however (I tried building one myself rather than buying one). So I shelved my Wiimote, where it sat gathering dust, forgotten. Until yesterday.

Often I like to read in my comfy chair that's on the other side of my desk. I'll have iTunes playing music, and I don't like having to get up and go to my computer to adjust the volume or skip a song. It's even more inconvenient if I'm outside and playing the music through the window. I don't have a multimedia remote (when ordering this computer from Dell, I didn't think I'd ever want one--foolish me).

Last week, Lifehacker published an article about using the Wiimote with your computer. This reminded me that I had a Wiimote lying around doing nothing, and using it to trigger a few commands couldn't be too hard, could it?

After wrestling with Vista's Bluetooth setup to get the Wiimote connected, I downloaded GlovePIE and went in search of an iTunes-controlling script. I found such a script at WiiLi.org that was tied to an AuthoHotkey script. I'd previously heard of AutoHotkey and thought about trying it, but I hadn't yet gotten around to it. So I installed AutoHotkey, and as a bonus I now have a way to control iTunes through keyboard shortcuts as well. I've also set up numerous other shortcuts since then--I've fallen in love with AutoHotkey and can't see myself going back!

The Wiimote needed a fresh pair of batteries, but otherwise the script worked excellently. I modified it slightly to add in the capability to control my computer's volume as well as just iTunes'--once I had the script in front of me, figuring out how to adapt it wasn't difficult.

By far the most annoying aspect is Vista's Bluetooth connectivity. Every time I want to connect the Wiimote, I need to go through the whole finding devices, installing drivers, etc., setup. It doesn't take too long, but it's inconvenient to have to do that every time. I don't have much experience using Bluetooth devices, so I'm not sure if this is normal, a problem with Vista, or just because of the way the Wiimote works. If anyone has any solutions, please let me know. Otherwise I'm quite satisfied with my accomplishment!