Projector Project Bears No Fruit But It Was A Fun Ride

No matter how good the intentions or how strong your hack-fu may be, sometimes you just can’t cross the finish line with every project. Here’s one that we hate to see go unfinished, but it’s obvious that a ton of work already went into reclaiming these smart white-board projectors and it’s time to cut the losses.

The hardware is a Smartboard Unifi 35″ computer with a projector mounted on a telescoping rod. It was manufactured for use with a touch-sensitive white board which the guys at the Milwaukee Makerspace don’t have. The projector works, but all it will display is a message instructing the user to connect the computer to the white board. Since they’ve got a couple of these projectors, it would be nice to salvage the functionality.

The first attempt was to replace the video signal to the projector. A few test boards were etched to experiment with DVI input. This included several logic sniffing runs to see what the computer is pushing to get the warning message to display. Alas, the group was not able to get the device to respond. But this opens up a great opportunity for you to play Monday morning hacker. Take a look at the data they’ve posted in the link above and let us know how you would’ve done it in the comments.

18 thoughts on “Projector Project Bears No Fruit But It Was A Fun Ride

  1. I’ve installed and worked on hundreds of those projectors (I am a SMART Certified installer) and I have never seen them display an error message like that and nothing else, in fact I am nearly 100% sure I have used them as regular projectors without a SMART board connected for diagnosing them.

    I will say that they are designed so that you need either a SMART board or a remote to use them since there is no input control on the unit itself.

    Also, looking through his site I am confused as to why he needed to create all the break out boards. On the bottom of these projector there is a plethora of inputs all ready (including VGA, DVI-D, S-Video, RCA and the relevant audio ports). See for the things specs.

    Lastly, did you try plugging a mouse into the USB port where the SMART Board would go? It may work since the SMART board is detected as a standard HID device in most cases.

  2. Hi! This is Jack, another member of the Milwaukee Makerspace.

    @dantheman2865/karl: I’m planning on doing this with a remaining projector. The projector head is rather complicated and the mainboard CPU has a fan attached, so I was waiting until other options had been tried first in case I broke anything. There is a set of pins on the board called “PC DOWNLOAD” that I’m assuming interface to the microcontroller.

    @Jarrod: I’ll have to try plugging in a USB mouse next time I’m there and see what it does. The idea behind making the breakout boards was that since the projector head would not turn on without the DVI cable connected, it could be left in place to provide whatever signals it’s using to the projector head and we could supply our own video signal. We can’t get it to switch to any of the video inputs provided on the rear panel or breakout.

    @charliex: has some promise, as it is detected when hooked up to a computer. The issue is that we cannot get it to switch from that error screen to our supplied video input. What could we do with the EDID if we managed to obtain it?

  3. A few things to try and help you out here :) The UF35 model will always do this without a SMART SC9 or related controller attached.

    The projector has a powered USB hub built into the unit. It will check for a SMART SC9 controller. And it will then send commands to the SMART SC9 to see which version of firmware is installed on it. It can function as a closed unit, allowing you to interact with the screen without a PC.

    Anyway, your missing direct USB data with the identifier of the SC9 + Firmware matching results.

    Now, with all of that said, I have one of these at home (in my basement) that runs without a SMART Board. To do this, just attach an SC9 (They are small controllers, about 4 inches by 5 inches) that you can hang on the wall right below the projector. In my case I have a 10 inch USB cable I connect to it.

    Once that is done, you can ‘control’ the touch interface by the mouse buttons on the remote.

    The controllers are extremely cheap and easy to find. If you want, email me directly (my email is in this) and I can give you one. I have a dozen or so. :)

    – Mysterious poster

    1. SMART Worker: “One last thing, be really careful. I can see you took the casing of the projector especially around the bulb.”

      Yeah, we found out that it was sending 400Vdc to the bulb; thankfully, it was the easy way, with a multimeter :)

      Thanks for the info, it’s great to run into people that are familiar with this hardware. I’ll take you up on the offer for the controller, but I can’t seem to find your e-mail in the message. You can reach me using my posting name @

  4. One last thing, be really careful. I can see you took the casing of the projector especially around the bulb. Without the casing some of the hardware that runs the power is accessible to touch and you can electrocute yourself really good if your not careful. The safety override near the lamp replacement module is designed to trigger anytime the case is open to prevent techs from zapping themselves.

    Because the ‘head’ is really small, the electronics and electrical circuits are dangerously close to the surface.

  5. JackD: in our SVN repository there is a monitor simulator project i’m building. Just copy that its really simple. copy out the edid , then put it on a new chip, wire up the I2C and thats it.

    but honestly its so simple a design its not even worth pulling it up, just power, gnd and the i2c data lines.

  6. You need to ask around for broken Smartboards. I built a simulator out of the control hardware for an ACTIVboard some time ago and still use it today — instead of lugging around the 78″ whiteboard, it’s about 8″ square and fits in any laptop bag.

    Do the same thing — just grab the control hardware from the small case on the external rear of the smartboard package and steal it away.

  7. OK, a few updates:
    Plugging in a mouse doesn’t work.
    I took apart one of the projector heads to look at the chips. The ones I’ve spec’d so far are a set of proprietary TI DLP driver chips (“your provider should have given you documentation with your evaluation kit”) and a Silicon Image SiI1161 DVI Receiver which has a usable data sheet and can be interrogated with I2C, so that has some promise. There’s a few 16-pin chips I haven’t looked at yet. I also haven’t checked out the chips on the control board yet.

    My hope is that we’ll stumble across some sort of USB interface box whose responses we may be able to clone ;)

  8. Sorry to revive an old thread

    Just picked up one of these for little money .. thinking I could use it as a standard projector … did anyone manage to enable these to work without a smartboard being present? My other thought was these look a lot like the 3M DMS-800, is the functionality of that any different, so would that firmware be of any use??

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