Talking Washer Is A Clean Solution For The Visually Impaired

Have you shopped for an appliance lately? They’re all LEDs, LEDs everywhere. You might say that manufacturers are out of touch with the utility of tactile controls. [Wingletang]’s fancy new washing machine is cut from this modern cloth. While it does have a nice big knob for selecting cycles, the only indication of your selection is an LED. This isn’t an issue for [Wingletang], but it’s a showstopper for his visually impaired wife.

They tried to make tactile signposts for her most-used cycles with those adhesive rubber feet you use to keep cabinet doors quiet. But between the machine’s 14(!) different wash cycles and the endlessly-rotating selector knob, the tactile map idea was a wash. It was time to make the machine talk.

For his very first microcontroller project, [Wingletang] designed a completely non-invasive and totally awesome solution to this problem. He’s using LDRs arranged in a ring to detect which LED is lit. Recycled mouse pad foam and black styrene keep ambient light from creating false positives, and double as enclosure for the sensor and support boards. As [Mrs. Wingletang] cycles through with the knob, an Arduino clone mounted in a nearby project box determines which program is selected, and a Velleman KA02 audio shield plays a recorded clip of [Wingletang] announcing the cycle number and description.

The system, dubbed SOAP (Speech Output Announcing Programmes), has been a great help to [Mrs. Wingletang] for about the last year. Watch her take it for a spin after the break, and stick around for SOAP’s origin story and walk-through videos.

It’s baffling that so few washers and dryers let you know when they’re finished. Don’t waste your time checking over and over again—Laundry Spy waits for the vibrations to end and sends you a text.


27 thoughts on “Talking Washer Is A Clean Solution For The Visually Impaired

  1. I ran into some of this with my Grandmother with halted Macular Degeneration. I eventually put in a Google home mini on the assumption that was the closest we were getting to a working computer with internet access and I’d be out very little if she didn’t use it. Fortunately the washer’s still old, but I did end up adding Dymo labels with higher-contrast buttons to the oven.

    1. Another trivial project that doesn’t use frameworks.

      This should use trumble, which depends on bumble, which requires frumble, to use druffle, to pass data to huffle, which enables puffle to interact with druffle, in order to fluffle the socksifier.

      This doesn’t exfiltrate any data, or require 3 different services to “link” accounts, and works without internet access, or small monthly fees.

      trivial crap!

      1. What the F**** are you talking about bill bullshit. One can only hope you loose your hearing and eyesight soon and then start appreciating other people’s work. Or – it does not matter as you cannot see the postings anyway. Postings likes your should be deleted immediately.

        1. I’m pretty sure that was meant to be sarcasm about how a lot of projects rely on so many libraries and other dependencies when with just a little elbow grease you can end up with something just as functional but a lot smaller and simpler.

  2. This is a nice project. In one of the videos the problem is described. Isn´t the problem tackled the manual way by before turning the machine on, you turn the knob so that it matches the first blue spot? Then it works like the old school machine.

    There is of course the catch with a frustrated user who doesn´t want to wait for the chime before each turn. Then this project comes in handy. Or actually not, because you still have to wait for the chime.

    And speaking of that it is really annoying that turning the knob is not programmed so that you can turn it as fast as you like. There is the small delay before you can turn it again… Grr… Interrupts anyone?? We have a Siemens machine with this feature. Same software in Bosch and maybe in this Samsung also.

    1. The issue is not as simple to solve as turning the knob back to the first position, as Wingletang explained, that the machine start up as the last cycle that was last used. So unless you remember which was the last cycle used, you will not know to which knob you will have to put it to.

      It is a great solution to a problem that manufacturers such as Samsung have not considered. When you think that this is the first microcontroller project for this guy, I am pretty impressed. I would take away the repeat every 3 seconds, and add a sleep mode for it, so that it goes to sleep and wakes up only when the knob is turned. But that is just my preference.

      1. Whilst this was my first microcontroller project, I have been working with Programmable Logic Controllers (PLCs) in a professional capacity for many years. I find the power in Arduino devices amazing, considering the low cost. The PLCs I used cost many hundreds of pounds.

    2. Unfortunately, the Samsung washer does not always start on the same programme. It starts on the last wash programme that has partially run or run to conclusion. A blind user thus has to remember the last programme used.

  3. The least time-consuming solution would be to dump the defective wife. That’s why I keep my Tarpan Honker car, even if it has its defects it all can be fixed given enough time. Women can’t be easily fixed with a wrench, angle grinder and TIG welder so I don’t bother with them anymore.

  4. Unfortunately us lucky sighted people don’t realise the things we take for granted. Computers were meant to improve the lives of all.
    These designers need to take a course in disabled aids to make their lives easier, not harder!
    Great job done here, and thanks for the solution.

  5. Very nice project and very well done ! I’m impressed by the dedication and love you put in the design, making and finishing.

    Congratulations !

    My solution (admittedly quite inferior and in the spirit of: “I would have done it with a 555” ;-) ) would be:

    – choose a subset of just 3 programs from the 14 available (most of us do not use all the features available in any product…)

    – for those 3 programs build 3 identical simple circuits consisting of: LDR + transistor + little solenoid (to produce a “bump”, similar to a Braille dot, emerging from your project box, placed over the washing machine)

    – place one of those LDRs over each of the LEDs corresponding to the subset of programs.

    I just wanted to mention this “low tech solution” as it may be useful for someone with a similar problem but with limited budget or technical skills.

    If the LEDs are easily accesible, you may omit the LDRs… (e.g. in not so modern appliances, where you may find “old style” 0,5 mm LEDs…) you can connect each transistor directly to one of the LEDs (WARNING: do not mess with the innards of your appliances unles you really know what you are doing, as it may be dangerous (danger of electrocution, fire hazard, etc).

    Best regards, and congratulations again for a great project,

    A/P Daniel F. Larrosa
    Montevideo – Uruguay

  6. My aughts LG washer always starts on the (normal) same setting. Counting knob detents seems possible if done right. Then it’s press the first (heat) button 3 times for hot then the “play” button. Though I see well I form graphic-count patterns to do the same thing over and over again. Kinda like using a stick shift.

    I wish you could simply 10-key program each cycle if needed for time and speed like a microwave instead of all of those suggested time presets like “sandwich” and “darker clothes”.

  7. Great hack!
    I have an earlier Samsung Eco Bubble, and it has a button “my program” which you can program to your favorite settings. We always use this setting for all our wash, so i could operate it blindly ;)
    When washing machine producers start mordenizing their hardware, i hope that they include wireless connectivity and a remote control API. That really opens up these devices and would give me the option to start the wash when my solar panels are producing the right mount of power.

  8. I made a similar device 2017 – 2018 for my blind wife for a Samsung washer and dryer. My device used an arduino r3, photo resisters and an emic2 text to speech module. Mine was less elegant, using duct tape to hold the photo resisters in place. Housing was a “really useful box” .7 liter box.

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