From the Archives: 8/8/2011
The Wii Sensor Bar that comes with the Wii has a relatively short range that can be a problem in a large room, and also has some trouble with correct cursor positioning on a large tv. With a little research I found that the "Sensor Bar" is actually just a couple infrared LEDs that the Wii remotes pick up to detect the position of the remote relative to the sensor bar. With just a little research and minor soldering skill, you can build your own wide-spaced sensor bar that also has a wide arc so that you no longer need to be almost exactly in front of the TV for a good sensor read.
These pictures are not exactly measured statistics, but can give you an idea of the normal Wii Sensor Bar (Left) vs This Upgraded Sensor Bar (Right):
Here is the general information on the build:
- 6 - Infrared LED's (5mm, 940nm, easily available in hobby shops or on ebay, etc)
- 2 - 68 ohm resistors (1/4 watt, also available in hobby shops or ebay)
- Cheap USB extension cable and light weight speaker wire (or two USB extensions or one long one)
- Heat Shrink Tubing
- Large plastic Bottle Cap or other curved plastic and dremel or other cutting tool to cut in half
- Wire strippers / scissors
- Soldering Iron, Solder
- Electrical Tape
- Drill and drill bits to drill through bottle cap for LEDs or LED leads
Upgraded Wii 'Sensor Bar' for extended range... near, far, and further to each side.
With a large living room, we needed an extended sensor bar, but the ones available in the store were all battery operated and would use too many batteries for me. So I made a new one from one LED on each side, but it's arc was too narrow. Now I have three LED's per side and the range is great in all directions.
This is the calculator site I used to determine LEDs and resistors for the circuit based on the voltage of a USB cable... http://led.linear1.org/led.wiz
If you were good at soldering in small areas you could use their schematic and 10 ohm resistors. However I decided that the LED leads would be easier for me to solder together as a group, so I went with another solution and 68 ohm resistors. Here is a visual schematic I mocked up:
( The long stem on an LED is the positive and the shorter is the negative side. )
To create this three LED sensor for each side, I needed a gentle curve so that the LED's would give a full arc across the room. A large black bottle cap fit the bill very nicely. I cut it in half with a dremel cutting disk.
Since I wanted to be able to plug the LED's in to a source that would not run through batteries, I chose a USB extension cord for my source. This was not only cheap, but also can be plugged right into one of the USB port on the back of the Wii. The USB extension I had was not long enough to extend all the way up the back of our large TV and to each LED grouping, so I also used some light-weight speaker wire for the extensions to each side.
I drilled tiny holes for the LED prongs to extend through and then soldered them to the positive and negative leads on the speaker wire.
In the USB cable, red is +5v (positive) and black is the ground (negative). The white and green are not used in this case as these are for data transfer, not power.
The arc of the lights gives a wide range. Instead of about 4 foot wide at the back of the room, the span is now over 12 foot, so people can play from any of the seating options there without having to adjust the 'sensor bar' away from another player. Also, it gives much better detection at close and far range because the LEDs are stronger and the overlap is wider.
Powered directly from the Wii USB port, the lights are only on when the Wii is on and there is no hassle of changing out batteries. The two resistors are located in the green shrink tube area where the USB line is split to go to the two 'sensors'.
NOTE: All LED light can damage your eyes... even if it can not be seen, as in the case with infrared. Do not stare directly at LEDs.
So how do you tell if it works when you can't see IR light? A digital camera picks up the IR light as pink/purple, so you can use a camera to check if they each work.
I covered the open areas of the bottle cap with electrical tape to keep dust out and stuck them to the top of the TV with double stick tape.
It can take a little trial and error to get the sensor sides placed at the right angle. This is easiest if you use the Wii's calibrate sensor bar screen while moving around the areas you want it to cover. It can be very helpful to have someone at the TV to adjust the sensors while you watch the difference it makes to your remote. Don't forget the up-down adjustment to make sure it works both sitting and standing.
Working with electricity can be hazardous.
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