Revolutionary: Balance Boarder

Every Tuesday, Mike Sylvester brings you REVOLUTIONARY, a look at the wide world of Wii possibilities.

Inspired by Nintendo's own design, the work of another DIYer, and Alisha's challenge, I ventured to design and build my own "balance board." For a little more than $20 in materials, I've conceived an oversized Wiimote shell to translate exaggerated body movements into game commands through GlovePIE. I'm going to show you how I made it, and how it plays.

My goals for this project are to be able to control a game on at least 2 axes and have fun while I'm doing it. I won't be attempting to recreate Nintendo's official Balance Board, as that seems to use scales to detect shifting of weight, while the board itself remains stationary on the ground. My board will actually require balancing, and it will move around freely. The design I started kicking around in my head pretty much dictated the type of game I'd be testing it out with. I figured skateboarding or snowboarding should allow me enough leeway in my input that I wouldn't be required to have the balance and coordination of Daniel LaRusso to play.

After a trip to the local hardware store, I came home with this. The plan is to use the tennis balls as the surface that contact's the floor, and the fulcrum on which the board will shift. I'll adhere them with the glue near the center of the laminated board, on the underside. Just one of the trays will be used to keep the balls neatly in place, and the foam pipe insulation will be to keep the edges of the board from wreaking havoc on my floors. Lastly, there's grip tape so I don't slide off and embed myself in my projection TV.


I want the tennis balls to have a flat side for better surface contact to help them adhere to the tray. Please forgive me, as I can't think of any other way of putting this - I shaved 'em. I used a razor blade to cut off a tuft of green fur, leaving it flat on one side, and exposing the rough knitted mesh around the core of the ball. This should grip nicely with a good adhesive.


The tray is a bit too deep for my purposes. If I leave it as-is, the edges will scrap on the ground whenever I shift my board off balance, so I'm going to cut the tray in half to prevent that.


If I put the rim back over the base of the tray, it should provide extra support to keep the tennis balls in place.


A few dabs of glue secures the top rim to the base.



I'm trying to avoid making another embarassing statement here. Suffice to say, I'm going to glue them in place.


With the glue curing on the tennis balls in the tray, it's time to turn my attention to the board to add a bit of padding. I'll apply more glue to the edge of the board to hold down the pipe insulation foam.


I split the foam down the middle and cut it into lengths just one inch shorter than the sides of the board, so it won't overlap. The padding is thick enough that I won't have to worry about the corners hitting the floor.


The tennis balls have set up a bit, so now I'll apply some glue to the underside of the tray, and affix it to what will be the underside of the balance board.


After letting that cure for a while, I'll cut the grip tape to fit, and stick that on the top side of the board.


I've got a piece of foam left over, and I figured I could used this to hold my Remote in place. I'll cut off a sliver on the back to make it flat, and glue that down on top of the board, between the strips of grip tape.


Having a look at the finished product is really getting me amped to play, but I'm going to let the glue continue to cure overnight before I put the weight of my body on this thing.


I've never been any good at Tony Hawk games, even with a standard controller, so I ruled that out right away and chose a snowboarding game called Boarder Zone instead. Released in 2000, Boarder Zone had impressive graphics for its time, and kept me playing for hours at a time. I was so very eager to Wii-visit the game with my new peripheral, but to my dismay, it wasn't going to happen. Every attempt to run the game with my Bluetooth adapter enabled led to failure, although it ran fine otherwise. This sort of thing happens a lot. I'm anxious to script for a game I loved in days of yore, only to run into a brick wall of incompatibility. So I hastily found an alternate 'boarding game called Stoked Rider. Although I couldn't expect to be as familiar with this game as I was with Boarder Zone, I determined Stoked Rider would be sufficiently suitable to demonstrate how my balance board would (hopefully) work.

Now that the board's ready and a game is chosen, it's time to bring GlovePIE into the act. The game is simple and my input is fairly limited, so the script will be pretty simple. I'll use the Nunchuk for menu navigation and to jump, but steering will be handled by G-force detection on the Wiimote itself. Also, since the game itself suggests using Alt-F4 to quit the game, I'll map that to the Wiimote's Home button.

Key.Space = Nunchuk.Zbutton

Right = 1 > Nunchuk.JoyY > 0.25
Left = -1 < Nunchuk.JoyY < -0.25
Down = 1 > Nunchuk.JoyX > 0.25
Up = -1 < Nunchuk.JoyX < -0.25

If Wiimote.GZ < -.1
Left = True
Wait 100ms
Left = False
ElseIf Wiimote.GX < -.15
Left = True
Wait 50ms
Left = False
Else
Left = False
EndIf

If Wiimote.GZ > .1
Right = True
Wait 100ms
Right = False
ElseIf Wiimote.GX > .15
Right = True
Wait 50ms
Right = False
Else
Right = False
EndIf
Up = Wiimote.GX < -.1
Down = Wiimote.GX > .1

Key.Escape = Nunchuk.Cbutton
Key.Alt + Key.F4 = Wiimote.Home

In testing, I found that the adhesive I used didn't set solid enough to hold the tennis balls or Wiimote-cradling foam in place, so I ended up screwing those down, and now have a more resilient board to play on. If you're planning on trying this project yourself, you may get better mileage with a stronger adhesive.

Another way the Wii is revolutionizing gaming is by making it cool to look like a total goof while playing games. It wasn't one of my goals on the outset of this project, but I think I've accomplished it all the same. Leave a comment to suggest some other games I can try out with this peripheral, and I just might make some more videos.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.