HackBusting: Can You Fake A TV Remote With A Lighter And Some Paper?

We recently published an article where someone apparently controlled their TV by simulating a remote with merely a lighter and a sheet of paper. The paper had a barcode like cutout for a supposed “Universal Standby Signal”. The video rightfully attracted a substantial crowd, some awestruck by its simplicity, others sceptical about its claims.

Coming from some generic “Viral Life Hack” production house, the characteristic blare of background music, more suited to an underground rave than a technical video, certainly did not do it any favours. As any moderately experienced campaigner would know, modern televisions and remotes have been carefully engineered  to prevent such mishaps. Many of us at Hackaday, were under the impression that it would take something slightly more sophisticated than a fluorescent-bodied lighter and a crisp sheet of A4 to deceive the system. So we tested it out. Our verdict? Unlikely, but not impossible. (And we’re pretty sure that the video is a fake either way.) But enough speculation, we’re here to do science.

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Faking TV Remote Control With Paper And A Lighter

Cut slots into a piece of paper to represent the IR remote control bitstream for putting your TV into standby. Insert it between your TV’s IR receiver and the flame from a lighter, and pull the slots along to generate the coded pattern. Get it just right and you have a paper and lighter remote control. That’s just what [ViralVideoLab] did and you can see it in action in the video below.

Think of this as just the germ of an idea. Imagine how you’d automate this and extend it to include more commands. A wheel with the various bitstreams cut into the circumference comes to mind. A servo would turn the wheel to the desired command and something else would fire up the lighter just as the slots pass by. Now take it a little further. You already have a remote control with keypad and IR light. Hack that to talk to a microcontroller which would control the servo and the IR light. And there you go. A useless but fun hack (hint hint).

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TV Control With Hand Gestures

The cell phones of yesteryear were covered in buttons. Today’s cell phones are mostly a touch display with maybe one or two buttons. As time marches on, we find ourselves using our fingers more for gestures and swipes than button pushing to control our devices. Sadly, the television remote has been stuck in an antiquated state and most are still covered in archaic buttons.

[Frederick] has decided to dig the TV remote out from the stone age and updated it to use simple gestures for control. We’ve seen gesture control before, but this one is certainly the most elegant. He’s using a Raspberry Pi with a Skywriter HAT gesture recognition board. The driver is super easy to install and can be done in a single command line. The Skywriter hat interpreters the hand gesture and the Pi fires the appropriate signal via an IR emitter. This approach made the project fairly simple to put together, with surprisingly good results.

Be sure to check out his blog for all code needed, and take a look at the video below to see the remote in action.
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ARM-Based Gesture Remote Control

When we wave our hands at the TV, it doesn’t do anything. You can change that, though, with an ARM processor and a handful of sensors. You can see a video of the project in action below. [Samuele Jackson], [Tue Tran], and [Carden Bagwell] used a gesture sensor, a SONAR sensor, an IR LED, and an IR receiver along with an mBed-enabled ARM processor to do the job.

The receiver allows the device to load IR commands from an existing remote so that the gesture remote will work with most setups. The mBed libraries handle communication with the sensors and the universal remote function. It also provides a simple real-time operating system. That leaves just some simple logic in main.cpp, which is under 250 lines of source code.

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Just Don’t Call It An Old Remote

[Hari Wiguna’s] father is ninety years young. He started having trouble pushing the buttons on his TV remote, so [Hari] decided to build a custom remote that just has the buttons his dad needs. Oh, and the buttons are big.

There are a few interesting things about this project. [Hari] wanted to maximize battery life, so he went through a good bit of effort to keep the processor asleep and minimize power consumption. The remote is programmable, but [Hari] didn’t have access to his dad’s remotes. His answer was elegant. He used his Android phone to mimic the required remotes and provided a way for the remote to learn from another remote (in this case, the phone).
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Homer Robot Ensures You Don’t Miss An Episode

With our busy lives, who has time to pay attention to TV show schedules? [Tamberg] certainly didn’t and that is why he came up with the web-enabled TV remove he calls the Smart Homer. This miraculous device knows when ‘The Simpsons’ is being broadcast, turns on the TV and switches to the appropriate channel.

Like the real Homer, not too much is going on up in this toy’s noggin. A couple of IR emitters are mounted in place of pupils and the associated wires are run down into his body. Right between a pink donut and a Krusty burger resides an Arduino and ethernet shield. This electronic duo acts as a web server and looks out to the ‘net for an online script. The script polls an online TV Program Guide and if ‘The Simpsons’ are on at that time, it sends a signal back to the Arduino to turn the TV on.

Homer Smart Remote   Jolly Homer

Bare Bones Arduino IR Receiver

TV Remote

Old infrared remote controls can be a great way to interface with your projects. One of [AnalysIR’s] latest blog posts goes over the simplest way to create an Arduino based IR receiver, making it easier than ever to put that old remote to good use.

Due to the popularity of their first IR receiver post, the silver bullet IR receiver, [AnalysIR] decided to write a quick post about using IR on the Arduino. The part list consists of one Arduino, two resistors, and one IR emitter. That’s right, an emitter. When an LED (IR or otherwise) is reverse biased it can act as a light sensor. The main difference when using this method is that the IR signal is not inverted as it would normally be when using a more common modulated IR receiver module. All of the Arduino code you need to get up and running is also provided. The main limitation when using this configuration, is that the remote control needs to be very close to the IR emitter in order for it to receive the signal.

What will you control with your old TV remote? It would be interesting to see this circuit hooked up so that a single IR emitter can act both as a transmitter and a receiver. Go ahead and give it a try, then let us know how it went!