[Ricky’s] Rugged DVD Player


[Ricky] absolutely loves watching DVDs. He is epileptic and is cognitively functioning at a level roughly that of a 6 year old.  His younger brother [Ronnie] noticed that [Ricky’s] DVDs as well as his DVD player never lasted very long due to some rough handling. [Ronnie] stepped up to make [Ricky’s] life just a little bit easier by building this super rugged DVD watching station.

He started by ripping out the front pcb of the DVD player that has all the buttons. [Ricky] can wear through a set of standard buttons in no time, so [Ronnie] extended these to arcade buttons. Then he mounted everything into a custom cabinet that can withstand a considerable amount of abuse.

Now they can load 5 disks in and [Ricky] can watch what he pleases without worry of destroying the player.

[Ronnie] mentioned that he’d like to make a more complex control system using some kind of microcontroller, but frankly I find the simplicity of this to be perfect. Maybe a media pc loaded with movies might be a decent next step. You can see [Ronnie’s] build log here.

If you’ve ever considered making something like this to improve someone’s life, you should check out thecontrollerproject.com where people with special needs can connect with people who can build interfaces.

25 thoughts on “[Ricky’s] Rugged DVD Player

    1. I think this is a wonderful example of how much we tend to overthink our hacks. If people realized they could make a huge difference in someone’s life simply by extending some buttons, they might help more often.

  1. Nice build. Now we’ll see how the TV holds up. I would have added some clear acrylic across the entire screen and extended the TV’s power and volume buttons as well.

    1. Funny you should mention that, as about a month after I gave him the player he’d managed to use the volume buttons enough to cave in the volume up switch.We took a trip to couple stores and about 20 dollars and some creative wiring including a random wall wart I had in my truck and some bandaids for tape I set the sound up on some separate PC speakers. Made his home care workers happy too since he can’t blare the volume super-loud in the middle of the night now. Win Win.

    1. D’oh, somehow didn’t see your comment when I made mine. Yes, XBMC on a RPi or something would definitely work. I think that out of the box, XBMC’s UI might be a bit of an issue, but it’s flexible enough that it could be overcome with some minor tweaking. Plus the added ability to view an image of the DVD box or something would help too. Good thought there.

  2. Good idea, a lot of people with low vision would find this hack useful.
    Contrary to popular belief even severe AMD doesen’t mean you can’t enjoy a film, there are software modifications that compress the picture into a ring so you can see the whole screen despite no central vision.

    I once knew a guy with this, he had a special PC with voice module etc and high contrast enabled..

  3. One thing I’ve heard of doing for people who don’t treat their DVDs very well is to rip them to MP4 and use a media player such as those they have on eBay for 20 bucks or so. As they have fewer moving parts, they stand up to abuse quite a bit more than disc-based players, and I suspect a similar mod could be done for the controls. As a bonus, they have menus to select among a number of titles, so the sky’s the limit (actually the hard drive/flash drive size is) for the number of titles it could offer without swapping. Just something that someone might want to consider as an option if they also were to endeavor to create something along these lines.

    1. That or a custom build of XBMC on an RPi is my next plan to improve it. Something that preserves chapters would be needed too so possibly just DVD rips on as simple a scrolling menu as possible. This was simply made to address the need at the time that I knew Ricky had no TV working when I made this and I knew I could knock this thing together fairly quickly. I hadn’t thought of the MP4 players though. Thanks for the suggestion!

      1. Dunno if he’d find SD cards fiddly, but if necessary, perhaps you could mount them in rugged cartridges with some bigger, strong pins. Something like a DE-9 aka Atari Joystick connector, with rails or a hole for the cartridge body to align with. . Maybe wire a dollar-store card reader up to the complementing socket.

        1. Instead of SD cards, just dump all the media and OS on an SSD. That way you won’t have to worry about the drive getting damaged by physical abuse of shaking or slamming when something is read off of it.

          If you do go the Raspi route, you still might want to try an SSD drive connected through USB for capacity.

          1. Well point in favor of using the actual DVD’s is that the staff can change discs out instead of having to fiddle with things they might not know how to (yea try explaining how to use handbreak.) Simpler on them if they cn just unlock unit, open, swap discs out for new things Ricky just got and wants to see RIGHT NOW.

            Source: I have a special needs sister.

          2. Not really sure an SSD is any more robust than an SD card. Both are flash chips and controllers on a board. Considering speed is not an issue for playing DVD-quality video, SSDs aren’t really cost-effective.

  4. Seeing this made my day! Nice, clean, simple, and for a good purpose.

    Thanks for the link to thecontrollerproject too. I hope to contribute to something along those lines after my very busy life as a tech startup founder comes to a conclusion.

  5. You are a wicked good brother!!! :)

    I have a son who is also handicapped and practically destroys his dvds and mp4 players on a weekly basis. I was thinking of turning my RPi into something like this and yours just gave me the inspiration to do so!

    Many thanks

  6. ” I tried a 5 disc DVD player some time ago that could be locked but he figured out unplugging it unlocked it.” Looks like there’s more than one hacker in the family. This isn’t a great hack, but a very thoughtful one.

    1. Actually it wouldn’t be the first such thing he’s figured out. He also figured out when his first DVD player’s enter button broke that he could begin a movie and skip unskippable ads by doing the stop-stop-play trick to force the main film to start. This was after I’d told him it was too broken to work with a new disc and he kept telling me his dvd still worked.

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