Primer Tutorials for Arduino IR Remote Cloning and Keyboard Simulation

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We’ve featured loads of IR Arduino projects and they are all exciting and unique. The projects spring from a specific need or problem where a custom infrared remote control is the solution. [Rick’s] double feature we’re sharing in this article is no exception, but what is interesting and different about [Rick’s] projects is his careful and deliberate tutorial delivery on how to copy infrared remote codes, store the codes with a flavor of Arduino and then either transmit or receive the codes to control devices.

In the case of his space heater an Arduino was used to record and later retransmit the “power on” IR code to the heater before he awakes on a cold morning. This way his room is toasty warm before he has to climb out from under the covers, which has the added benefit of saving the cost of running the heater all night. Brilliant idea if you don’t have a programmable heating system. Maybe he will add a temperature sensor someday so it doesn’t have to run on strictly time.

A more complicated problem was controlling DVD playback software on his computer remotely. [Rick] says he sits at a distance when watching DVDs on his computer but his computer doesn’t have a remote control like a normal TV. Arduino to the rescue again! But this time he pulls out a Teensyduino because of its added feature of being able to emulate a keyboard and of course the computer DVD playback software accepts keyboard commands. Once again he used the “IRremote.h” library to record certain button codes from an old remote control before adding the retrieved codes to a Teensyduino setup and programmed to receive and decode the remote’s IR signals. The Teensyduino then maps the IR codes to known keyboard shortcuts and transmits the simulated keyboard shortcut commands to the computer via its USB cable where the DVD playback software recognizes the key commands.

As always [Rick] shares all his libraries and sketches on his blog so follow the above links to download the files. You will not miss a single step if you follow his excellent videos below. Plus, here are some other ways and other tools for using an IR remote with your Arduino and cloning an infrared remote.

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Home Theater for One Shakes Souls, Removes Fillings

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Sometimes an earth-shaking home theater setup just won’t do. A speaker enclosure can only fill the average sized room with so much sound. [Kevin Bastyr] has figured out a way around this. Do away with the room, and build the home theater INSIDE the speaker enclosure! [Kevin’s] creation is called Humorously Maniacal Milwaukee Makerspace Multimedia Machine, (or HMMMMMM for short). As the name implies, HMMMMMM was created at the Milwaukee Makerspace. The HMMMMMM reminds us a bit of the sensory deprivation chambers which were so popular in the 70’s. HMMMMMM’s purpose in life however, is anything but deprivation. The user (victim?) climbs through a 27” hatch and settles into a reclining position. An LCD display is mounted a comfortable distance away from the users eyes. Then movie (or brainwashing program) begins.

The sound system is what sets the HMMMMMM apart. The HMMMMMM utilises a 5.16 surround sound system. That’s 5 speakers and 16 10″ high efficiency subwoofers. We’re not sure if it would be better to call it a sound system, or a full-out frontal assault on the senses. We’re not kidding when we say senses as well. Bass this loud can be felt as much as it is heard. The HMMMMMM is has been measured at 148.6dB at 40Hz. That’s well into the hearing damage range. To be safe, HMMMMMM users must wear double hearing protection: foam earplugs and earmuffs.

[Kevin’s] graphs aren’t all smoke and mirrors either – he’s an audio engineer by trade, and made his measurements with a laboratory grade 1/2″ Bruel and Kjaer microphone. Sound pressure level testing isn’t without its dangers. During testing the 2050 watt amplifier powering HMMMMMM encountered a fan failure. The amp’s circuit board ended up scorched black with delaminated traces. The HMMMMMM however was none the worse for wear. Future plans for the HMMMMMM include RGB LEDs that flash to the beat, and a smoke machine to create that extra atmosphere when the escape hatch is opened.

Raspberry Pi Smart TV

[Tony] decided his “smart” LED TV wasn’t quite smart enough. So he stuffed a Raspberry Pi in it.

Upon opening the case of his 40″ Hisense Smart LED TV, he discovered that the logic board actually had two unused USB pads — what luck! He tapped off of them to get 5V @ 500mA to power the Pi… Later on he realized this wasn’t the ideal solution — when the TV turned off, it cut the Pi’s power too. So he pulled out his multimeter and probed the board, this time finding a 5V source that remained on while the unit was plugged in.

Next up was the placement of the Raspberry Pi. The included speakers on this particular TV weren’t that good, and since [Tony] uses a surround sound system anyway, he decided to make use of their space better. Cutting out the grill and removing the whole assembly left him with more than enough room to store the Pi and mount a 3D printed LAN and USB port cover!

He’s running Raspbmc which lends the TV tons of functionality. If you don’t mind voiding your warranty, this is a great hack!

Ask Hackaday: What is “Home Automation”?

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We’re not entirely sure what’s become of the term “home automation.” The definition seems to have settled for any user interface in the home—via tablets, phones, handheld remote controls, etc. Some of these devices lack any form of automation and instead require manual input. Even Wikipedia’s home automation article suggests a move toward this trend, offering the following definition (emphasis ours):

It is automation of the home, housework or household activity. Home automation may include centralized control of lighting, HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning), appliances, security locks of gates and doors and other systems, to provide improved convenience, comfort, energy efficiency and security.

Though “automation” is clearly included in the first sentence, one could interpret the bolded potion as meaning either:

  • Truly automated systems may also include centralized control (as a feature).
  • The category of home automation also includes systems that merely provide centralized controls.

So, are automated components optional? Judging by the phrasing of projects submitted to our tips line: yes sir. Truly automated systems exist, but if you browse through any home improvement store’s “home automation” section, you’ll be pummeled by a string of remote-controlled light dimmers and outlets. How many of these are designed to interact with sensors as feedback systems or otherwise function unattended?

Our articles often favor an “automation-optional” categorization. Should we, however, reserve the “automation” label for projects like the light switch based on room occupancy and deny other builds, like the voice-activated lights/outlets system or the RasPi lighting and audio control via web interface? Hit up the comments and help shed some light on how to properly use the terminology.

Custom HTPC and Home Media Server

[Benoit Frigon]’s builds are a tribute to tidiness: both his HTPC and media server are elegant creations packed full of features. He has quite the knack for clean builds in this form factor; his PBX server was met with high praise earlier this summer.

For the HTPC, [Benoit] gutted and cleaned an old DVR case and modified it to house a Mini-ITX board. He added standoff mounts to support the motherboard, then sketched up a template for the IO shield as a guide for cutting the back panel. The front of the DVR case originally had a 4-digit 7-segment display and a few simple buttons. Though he kept the original button layout, [Benoit] chose to replace the segment displays with a 20×2 character LCD. The new display is controlled via a python script on the HTPC, which runs an OpenElec Linux distro with XBMC 12.0.

The HTPC’s hard drive bay is a bit lighter these days, because [Benoit] decided to migrate his media storage to a separate server. Inside the new home media server is yet another Mini-ITX motherboard with an embedded Atom N2800 that runs Ubuntu Server. Live television streams via a WinTV HVR-2550 TV tuner and TVHeadend software. The case originally suspended the tuner from the IO bracket on the back (and nowhere else), which left the rest of the card dangerously unsupported inside. [Benoit] solved the problem by building an additional aluminum bracket that firmly holds both the PCIe riser and the tuner. Check out both builds’ pages for downloadable templates, software details and bill of materials.

Custom Arcade Control Panel

Anybody can fire up an emulator and play arcade games of yesteryear, but if you want to capture more of the nostalgia, you should build a custom arcade control panel. [Quinn] started her build by narrowing down which games she was most interested in playing, and decided on a straightforward 2-player setup. The biggest challenge was finding joysticks that would allow for switchable 4-way or 8-way control: some games such as Ms. Pac Man were made for 4-way joystick input, and the added positions on a 8-way can lead to confused inputs and frustrated players.

[Quinn] found the solution with a pair of Ultimarc Servo Stik joysticks, which use a servo motor to swap between 4 and 8-way mode. The output from both the joysticks and the buttons feed into an iPac encoder, which converts the signal to emulate a USB keyboard. The panel was first mocked up on butcher paper, with dimensions borrowed from various games: the panel itself resembles Mortal Kombat 2, while the buttons are spaced to match X-Men vs Street Fighter 2. [Quinn] chose some spare melamine—plywood with a plastic coating—to construct the panel, drilled some holes and used a router to carve out space for the joysticks. A USB hub was added to power the servos and to make room for future additions, which [Quinn] will have no difficulty implementing considering that her electrical layout is enviably clean. To cap it all off, she fit two “coin slot” buttons: a quarter placed into a slot serves as a start button when pressed.

Be sure to see the videos after the break that demonstrate the coin buttons and the servos, then check out a different retro joystick hack for a tripod controller, or look to the future with the Steam Controller.

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Raspberry Pi Media Center on an Apple TV

You may tend to think of the AppleTV as a sort of walled garden, and you would mostly be right. Apple keeps tight control over what runs on their devices. That said, [David] decided to look closer at how the various ‘applications’ work. It turns out, the applications are nothing more than glorified web plugins. Using XML and Javascript, the apps simply define library function calls, giving them a consistent interface. So using fairly simply methods, the options really open up. Unfortunately, the method for adding new sites isn’t enabled by default.

Using a jailbroken AppleTV, [David] was able to do a fair bit of detective work and found a way to enable the ‘Add Site’ option, which allowed him to use his Raspberry Pi as a media server. The good news: you don’t need to jailbreak if you’re running 5.2 or 5.3… you should be able to recreate his success fairly easily. The bad news: things seem to have changed in 6.0. [David] isn’t sure if this was Apple intentionally closing a hole, or just not dotting all of their i’s.

[David] put all of his research up on Github, including the rough code. If you haven’t updated your AppleTV yet, and you have a Raspberry Pi to use as a media server, give it a try and let us know how it goes in the comments.