UPDATE: Arduino and iPhone code is posted!
We have been wanting to re-design our family room for quite a while. Playing music or watching a movie is incredibly cumbersome, because we have 6 remote controls, and so many systems that at least one component is usually not working. We wanted a way to simplify these aspects, while at the same time creating a nice piece of furniture that didn't dominate the room like our current set up.
For starters, all the woodworking is custom and done by hand, and that alone took about 6 months to complete, working on and off over breaks and during the summer. In addition, there is a lot happening "under the hood".
We have an Arduino mounted inside one of the cabinets, which controls several infrared LEDs pointed at the sensors in our DVD player, cable box, amp, TV screen, Apple TV, and video switcher. The Arduino is connected to our home-wifi network so we can control it from our iPhones on an app that my dad wrote. This app is basically a simplified, condensed version of the 6 remotes we normally need to watch TV or a movie, or listen to music. For instance, with the simple push off a "Watch DVD" button, the iPhone-app connects to our wifi-network and tells the Arduino to flash the correct IR sequence to turn everything on, switch the TV and amp inputs to 'DVD player', and opens the disk drive on the DVD player. The app then switches to a DVD-specific control panel with controls for playing and pausing the DVD player, and volume controls for the amp.
We also listen to music throughout the house a lot, and we use the same sound system that we use for movies. So, wherever we are in the house, we can turn the amp on by choosing "Listen to iTunes" from the app main-menu, and the app will switch to the pre-existing app called "Remote" which allows us to play music from our desktop computer through the speakers in our family room via an airport express.
All of this functionality is nicely condensed into one easy-to-use app on your phone!
The hope is that this entertainment center will make it much more convenient to control entertainment in our house, while at the same time acting as a nice piece of furniture and giving us some cool mood lighting! (there are RGB LED strips mounted underneath to provide some ground effects)
My dad and I have been playing around with this idea for a while, but we really began designing in fall 2012. By November 2012, we had picked a final design, and when I came home from college for winter break in late December we immediately went to our favorite hardwood supplier and picked out all of our wood. Over the following month we finished the frame assembly and glued up the table top. I had to go back to school in late January 2013, and from then until March neither of us worked on it much. Over spring break we worked for another week, got all the cabinet pieces cut, and the floor panels made. Over summer 2013 we finished the electronics, and then during the fall my dad finished up the software for the iPhone app. Overall, this took about a year to complete.