Use Mobile Devices to Wirelessly Operate Computers

Use Mobile Devices to Wirelessly Operate Computers

Yonggao Yang (Department of Computer Science, Prairie View A&M University, Prairie View, TX, USA), Xusheng Wang (Department of Computer Science & Quantitative Methods, Winthrop University, Rock Hill, SC, USA) and Lin Li (Department of Computer Science, Prairie View A&M University, Prairie View, TX, USA)
Copyright: © 2013 |Pages: 14
DOI: 10.4018/jthi.2013010105
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Mobile computing devices, such as tablets, smartphones, PDAs, and game remote controllers, become very popular in our daily life. This article discusses how to turn these devices, more specifically smartphones and Nintendo Wii remotes (in short as Wiimote), into computer remote controllers. In the smartphone-based system, a smartphone is extended to be the computer’s wireless keyboard and mouse. The smartphone and the computer talk to each other through either wireless Ad Hoc or Wi-Fi access point network. In the Wiimote-based system, a Wiimote is turned into computer’s mouse, where the user moves the mouse cursor by waving the Wiimote in air, and generates mouse events through Wiimote buttons. The Wiimote communicates with the computer through Bluetooth. These systems can be used in conference rooms, classrooms, project seminar rooms, and even people’s living rooms, where a projector screen or a big-screen TV serves as the computer monitor.
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Under many situations, such as where the computer screen is projected onto projector screen or big-screen monitor in classrooms, conference/meeting rooms, project seminar rooms, modern office environments, or even our living rooms, we want to operate our computer wirelessly and comfortably.

Currently, products like wireless keyboard and presentation controller are available in the market for remote computer operations. A wireless keyboard, as shown in Figure 1a, uses either Bluetooth or wireless USB mini-receiver to implement the communication between the keyboard and the computer. Some wireless keyboards has a touchpad for controlling the mouse cursor. A wireless presentation controller, as shown in Figure 1b, allows the user to remotely operate a computer for PowerPoint presentation. This kind of controller usually has several buttons, including mouse-left, mouse-right, next slide and previous-slide buttons (for PPT presentation), and even a small rectangle touchpad for moving mouse cursor.

Figure 1.

Existing wireless computer controllers


However, those wireless devices may have certain drawbacks. Wireless keyboards have limited flexibility and are difficult to hold by hands during presentation. Wireless presenters are mobile, but they are often awkward in cursor position control. Moreover, a computer can only connect to one of these control devices at any time. If more than one presenter or team member need to participate in the presentation, or an audience wants to ask questions and needs to use the wireless controller temporarily, the only controller has to be passed around during the presentation session. This situation is inconvenient and imposes the presentation efficiency. Furthermore, the user who holds such a device cannot directly use his/her hand position and motion to operate the mouse cursor.

Nowadays, mobile computing devices, such as tablets, smartphones, PDAs game remote controllers, and so on, are available to many people and families, and becoming part of our daily life. These devices are designed for multi-purposes, such as personal office, mobile phone, camera, games console, etc. A list of the popular mobile computing devices includes iPad, iPhone and iPod from Apple Company, Android smartphone from Google, Windows mobile smartphone and PDA from Microsoft, and various handheld game systems from Nintendo, Microsoft, Sony, and others.

Mobile computing devices are digital, active, computer networked, and usually user reconfigurable devices that can operate to some extent autonomously (Poslad, 2009). The typical features of these devices include:

  • They have small physical size for excellent mobility designed for handholding and carrying around, and usually owned and operated by individuals;

  • They have good Human-Computer-Interface, including a small touch screen and a build-in physical keyboard or soft keyboard. They run a simplified modern operating system with good graphics user interface;

  • They have strong networking capability, usually armed with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.

With these characteristics, some mobile computer devices, such as tablets, smartphones, PDAs, can be easily turned to wireless computer keyboards and mice by running a special mobile application. Other mobile devices, such as game remote controllers, can be applied as presentation controllers or computer mice.

In this article, we discuss and present methods to turn mobile computing devices into computer remote controllers. We use smartphone as an example to demonstrate how to design and implement a smartphone-based wireless keyboard and mouse for computers. The same design and implementation can be easily extended to tablets and PDA devices. We also present how to turn a Wii Remote (shortly called Wiimote) into a computer controller. This principle can also be extended to similar game remote controllers. The remaining of this article is organized as follows. First, we describe and presents the details of the design and implementation of a smartphone-based computer remote control system. Then we present how to use Wiimote to operate computers. Afterwards, we outline the applications of such systems. We then finally conclude this work.

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