Sometimes, you look around at all these gadgets and in a rare moment of inspiration or madness, you look at them all
a little different??? connected in a way they are currently not, but perhaps should be, or at least "could" be. There
might not be anything "new" but there are countless combinations of disparate technologies, and we think this is a
great example of combining a couple of those.
This week's How-To is a fun one, we take an iPod and turn it in to a universal infrared remote control which can be used to control all your home electronic equipment, or just about anything that uses a remote control, for example in our place we have our iPod controlling our TV, DVD Player, Direct TV, Ultimate TV PVR, Media Center PC, Xbox, XM Satellite Radio, Roomba and a few other random things like a Robot.
How did we do this? Basically, we "recorded" the "sounds" an infrared remote makes on a PC and then put them on an iPod as songs. Adding a special sound-to-IR converter then turns those sounds back to IR and allows you to use your iPod as a remote control. As an added bonus, it works up to 100 feet. It's a slick all-in-one unit and we're never going back to 6 remotes ever again.
If you want to see this in action before reading on, click here to watch a video (Windows Media).
For this How-to you'll need a few things, we tried to do this in the simplest way so just about anyone can try it out, there are other ways to do this and we'll cover those at the end of the article.
iPod (doesn't matter which one, we used our mini)
PC or Mac with sound recording software (we used a PC with SoundForge)
A Pocket PC (any Pocket PC 2002 / 2003 should work, we used a Toshiba and an iPaq)
Griffin's Total Remote Software and IR device (you'll need the software and the included device).
Getting the IR Signals
The most important element for this How-to is the sound to IR converter from Griffin. This device (and software)
was meant for Pocket PCs to extend the range and add consumer IR capabilities. We're going to use the Pocket PC
software to input the IR signals from our remotes, and then we're going to use the sound to IR converter on our iPod
We found Total Remote for about $16 on Froogle, you can also score one on eBay for less if you poke around. The software is included with the IR device. You could make your own device, but that'll take awhile and it's not as polished and complete as what Griffin rolled out.
Once you get the Total Remote software and IR device, install the software on your Pocket PC. Follow the instructions and start entering in all the remotes you'll want to ultimately use on your iPod to control your electronics. To keep this simple, we're going to start out with turning the power on or off on our TV.
On the Pocket PC tap Start > Programs > Total remote
Tap Edit > "Start One-Shot Sampling"
Then pick a button on the interface, we picked the power button.
Total remote will then prompt you to hold the remote (in our example, the TV remote) up to the IR port on the Pocket PC. This records the IR signal.
Once recorded you can test the captured IR signal by using the IR device included with Total Remote. Once you verify that it's working, it's now time to get that IR signal off the Pocket PC and on to a computer as a sound file. You can also record more signals, but we're going to keep moving for now.
"Recording" the IR Signal
Remove the Total Remote IR device from the Pocket PC headphone jack and run a line out cable from the Pocket PC to the Microphone or line in. You can get a 3.5mm stereo able like this from any computer store or RadioShack. Many computers come with this to run sound out to speaker, that'll work too.
On your desktop computer (for our example, a PC) use a sound-editing program that can edit sounds and remove channels (left and right). We're using SoundForge for our example.
In your recording app, set the recording format to the following (this is really important).
44 Hz, 16bit Stereo. PCM
We're ultimately going to save this as a WAV (Windows Sound file) some applications might need to know that each of time.
Hit record in the sound recording application, then on the Pocket PC with the line out from the headphone jack to the line in on the desktop computer, hit the button you assigned the "Power" signal to.
Stop the recording, and press play- if you recorded it properly you'll hear some weird beeps and pulses. That's what the IR signal "sounds" like. In SoundForge you can actually see the pulses and signal on a wav graphic too.
Next up, highlight the right channel and "mute" it. We're not sure why this matters, but it does. If you don't the sound won't process through the IR device properly.
Now, save the sound recording as a 44 Hz, 16 bit Stereo, PCM WAV file. We called ours "power.wav"
Click here to listen to our recording (wav file).
Putting the Signal on the iPod
Pop your iPod in the cradle, in iTunes, make a new playlist, we called ours "TV" and then add the WAV file to the playlist, the file will then transfer to the iPod and we're ready to test.
Ready, Aim, Fire...
Remove the iPod from the cradle, and put the Total Remote IR device in the headphone jack of the iPod. Go to the playlist, point the iPod and the TV and if you've done everything right, you can now control your TV, or anything else for that matter with your iPod.
And that's it. We entered in a few dozen signals from 5 or so remotes and it's been working out great.
If you didn't see the video, click here to view (Windows Media).
If you don't want to spring $16 or so for the Griffin Total Remote IR device and/or don't have a Pocket PC, you can most likely make your own IR recorder, here's an IR Reciever from RadioShack. You'll need to get a PC microphone, cut the mic part off and splice in an IR receiver to record.
To transmit from the iPod, again, you're likely able to take a pair of headphones, slice the ear buds off and splice in an IR transceiver, here's one from RadioShack that we think would work out.
You'll still need to find a sound recorder application, but there are tons of those, many free ones, google around for your specific platform and operating system.
We did this a long long time ago, for another "hack" so we're sure it'll work out. If you run in to a jam, drop us a note, we'll try to help.
Now, you might ask why we didn't make our own from the start??? this because all that would take way too much time, and since we had a Pocket PC, $16 was pretty cheap for a very useful Universal remote using our favorite gadget, the iPod. It's worth noting that this will work on other devices that can play sound, for kicks we put the wav files on our Mac, PC, linux box and were able to use those as a remote as well.