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Supersized iPod remote control for the visually impaired

By Andrew Pollack on 12/29/2005 at 10:21 PM EST

The Supersized, Super-Easy iPod Remote Control

The goal was to create an MP3 playing device which could be easily used by my father-in-law who is 87 on Sunday and is rapidly loosing his vision. He can now see almost no detail. Unfortunately, he has never been a technically oriented person and has had a very hard time using the adaptive technologies. Were I to give him a typical MP3 player, it would be lost in moments, and even while in his hand would be unusable.

An iPod is ideal for him in other ways, however. It can easily hold one or more full unabridged audiobooks so that he has no need to swap tapes or cd's, for example. What a shame that it is totally unavailable to someone with his needs. My search for a suitable device had failed utterly, so I opted to build one.

The image below shows the iPod Nano in a protective silicon sleeve,
sitting in the JBL On Stage II next to the new remote control.

The first chore was finding an MP3 player and remote control suitable for altering. I ended up using an iPod specifically because there are more accessories for them than the other products. I then set about testing remote controlled base stations. My requirements were simple, but specific. It must keep the iPod charged, have reasonable sound quality, have a radio frequency based remote control (rather than infrared) and most of all the simple remote must operate the same way regardless of what state the iPod is in when placed in the cradle. The iPod may be "on" or "off" -- asleep, awake, or whatever. This last requirement was the hardest.

I settled on the "JBL On Stage II with Remote" which does all of those things wonderfully. In fact, I can even leave the iPod Nano set with the "Hold" switch engaged and the remote will work as expected.

The Next Step was to alter the Remote Control

As you can see from the picture to the left, the circuit board in this case was extremely easy to understand. Each of the five buttons was clearly marked on the board, and to close the switch you simply connect both halves of the round contact area for each button.

My skills with a soldering iron are poor at best. I'm getting better -- you should have seen my earlier work on other projects! As it turns out, a common ground is used, so you actually need only to solder one ground (the lower half of the switch) and use that for all your push buttons. A total of six solder points on the board were needed.

The Finished Product, as you can see, has the five momentary contact switches mounted on a large black box. The switches are designed to be easy for him to use without seeing (the labels are for my mother-in-law so she can see what the buttons do and explain it to him each time he asks until he remembers). The center button is large and square. It works to start and stop the audio. The large round buttons on one side are volume up and volume down. Finally, the very small round buttons on the other side work as forward and reverse. The white circle on top in the center along with the red and yellow stripes on the sides of the box are simply to make the until easier for him to spot while he still is able to see high contrast areas.

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  • There are  - loading -  comments....

    Can I suggestBy Wild Bill on 12/30/2005 at 04:20 AM EST
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    You make me smile...By Amy B on 12/30/2005 at 01:05 PM EST
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    Job well done....By Bruce Elgort on 12/31/2005 at 05:26 PM EST
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    My own thoughts on this are...By Ben Rose on 01/03/2006 at 08:19 AM EST
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    Possible Reboot BridgeBy TJJohn12 on 05/12/2006 at 12:04 PM EDT
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    overheating?By on 05/12/2006 at 11:08 AM EDT
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    Thanks for the tip. We don't usually worry much about overheating in Maine. LOL.By Andrew Pollack on 05/12/2006 at 11:54 AM EDT
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    My own thoughts on this are...By Richard on 05/12/2006 at 02:11 PM EDT
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    My own thoughts on this are...By Nick Kuzmik on 05/12/2006 at 03:37 PM EDT
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    Thanks Nick, but no....By Andrew Pollack on 05/12/2006 at 04:00 PM EDT
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    Awesome job!By Skyler on 05/12/2006 at 03:51 PM EDT
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    This is too nice.By Poolshark on 05/12/2006 at 07:11 PM EDT
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    My own thoughts on this are...By Alan on 05/13/2006 at 09:41 AM EDT
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    That's a good site to know AlanBy Andrew Pollack on 05/13/2006 at 02:18 PM EDT
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    Great hack!By Francesco on 05/13/2006 at 02:43 PM EDT
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    My own thoughts on this are...By slakwhere on 05/15/2006 at 03:12 PM EDT
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    My own thoughts on this are...By chelse on 07/21/2006 at 11:06 AM EDT
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    My own thoughts on this are...By ali on 06/19/2006 at 11:26 PM EDT
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    questionBy Richard on 10/18/2006 at 06:39 PM EDT
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    re: Supersized iPod remote control for the visually impairedBy Steven Vickers on 11/20/2006 at 02:42 PM EST
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    re: Supersized iPod remote control for the visually impairedBy zb on 10/03/2008 at 05:18 AM EDT
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    re: Supersized iPod remote control for the visually impairedBy Lydia Juarrero on 12/03/2006 at 06:34 AM EST
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    The cost for me to do it would be insane - I'd have to charge consulting ratesBy Andrew Pollack on 12/03/2006 at 07:40 AM EST
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