Giant IPod Remote For The Visually Impaired

giant ipod remote

[Andrew Pollack]’s supersized iPod remote control isn’t the most technical hack around, but I’m sure his 87 year old father-in-law is very appreciative. He’s losing his vision rapidly and is finding it difficult to operate a tape player when listening to audiobooks. Andrew decided that the solution was to load up an iPod with a lot of books and then make a large tactile control for it. He purchased a JBL On Stage II sound dock with remote. The dock has built in speakers and keeps the iPod charged while in use. He put the remote in a larger box and connected buttons with unique shapes and high contrast colors. This makes the controls easy to remember, even if you can’t read the labels.

14 thoughts on “Giant IPod Remote For The Visually Impaired

  1. Fantastic!

    THIS is the essence of a proper hack, in my opinion. It’s cheap, easy, but most of all it serves a very useful purpose. Kudos for applying a very simple solution to a difficult problem.

    What’s even better is that an iPod is ideal as it will maintain the position in the book on pause -CD players lack this function, which is (apparently) a constant frustration for the partially sighted.

    Excellent work!

  2. Thanks again, all.

    To clarify a detail or two:

    Updating content is easy. I connect to my mother-in-law’s machine over VNC and update the folder in iTunes with the new books. When I let her know its read, she walks the iPod over to the computer, plugs it in, waits 10 minutes, and puts it back on the JBL.

    This version was purposely simple, as I wasn’t sure he’d even be able to use it. It has turned out that he really enjoys it. His only question to me ever, was about taking it with him on a trip. I explained it all had to go and Sue opted to veto that as she’d have had to cart it around. I’m planning a next step that helps with the issue.

    I’ll update you when the next version is done. I’m planning a very similar unit but will take the guts out of the docking station and include them right in the box.

    The idea will be to completely embed the iPod into the remote unit along with rechargeable batteries that power the amp and doc. I’ll also add a power connector which supports a car charger and home charger, small embedded speakers and a headphones jack, and a usb port so the iPod never needs to be removed. Just hook the unit to the PC to update it.

    It’ll be a good project this fall when I finish this big VoIP thing I’m doing.

  3. @7 – morcheeba — The TV based control would be cool for many people. In this case, when he wants to “watch” (aka listen mostly) to the Red Sox, he uses his remote control. It works like this….”Sue… Sue! Can you turn on the Red Sox?…..Sue?!?”

    I’m not sure a TV based device would be good.

  4. I have to agree with the above comments from
    # 3 a great hack that serves a great purpose that can be used by not only geeks but by those less technically inclined or those with vision problems as in this case

  5. So many hits last night the site had trouble. Its been borderline for a while — an Athlon 2600 at ServerBeach. I have a pair of P4-3ghz-HT machines allocated but hadn’t had a chance to do the upgrade yet. I’ll try to get it moved over this afternoon.

    Have patience, that little Althon 2600 (which may be an Atari 2600 inside) isn’t adaquately cooled, so when it gets too busy it overheats.

  6. liam, that easy button you link to, I’m still not clear, what does it actually do? is it a plastic dummy, or does it make funny sounds, or does it connect to your computer and load, or does it just work like a regular switch?

  7. Not to disscredit you hack as it seems like a nice one, but I think a easier solution would be a Ipod shuffle. I have one and can operate it while exercising or running w/o even looking at it. It has no screen, its perfect for someone who either is active and can’t afford to look at it to change the song eg runner etc. or someone who is visually impared. Also osx has an awsome magnification accessibility function built into it. I use it alot and I have 20/20 vision (with contacts)

  8. @ultraapple — My kids have shuffles. The problem is we’re talking about a man who’s 87, blind, and has poor dexterity with very little ability to discern the difference between the buttons.

    If I bonded a leash to it and tied the other end to something big, it might not get lost, but it still wouldn’t be useable.

  9. My daughter is 9 and visually impaired to the point she can hardly see a foot in front of her. If anyone has a recommendation for a ipod that would be well suited for a visually impaired child, it would be greatly appreciated. She loves to listen to country music and her braille teacher just suggested putting her textbooks on audio.

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