Senior Remote

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Introduction: Senior Remote

Mod your mom's TV remote to make it senior friendly.

My mom was born in 1931. She is from the generation of radio and WWII. Her eyesight is failing and she isn't good with anything electronic. TV remotes confuse her. This mod came to me after she called me one day, claiming her TV remote stopped working. It turns out, she inadvertently hit the button that activated the VCR functions. She didn't know or couldn't see the button to reactivate the TV functions. So I decided to "dumb" down the remote to only three functions: On/Off, Channel and Volume.

I've also been reading up on merging electronics with textiles. I ran across this article
http://www.cs.colorado.edu/~buechley/diy/diy_e_sewing.html#switch
about how to make an fabric switch. I thought this mod would be a great opportunity to play with textile electronics.

Before you start flaming, yes I know this type of thing has been done before. I've run across the remote-in-a-stuffed-animal mods.
https://www.instructables.com/id/Teddy-Bear-Remote-Control/
https://www.instructables.com/id/Cute-Dog-Remote-Controller/
All very creative projects, but I doubted my mom would want to use a stuffed animal for a remote.

This is an easy Instructable that you can do in one day. You can put this together with basic tools:
Scissors
Soldering Iron
Iron
Screwdriver
Hot Glue Gun

PARTS:
TV Remote - New Remotes http://www.newremotecontrol.com/
Conductive Fabric "Zelt" - Less EMF http://www.lessemf.com/fabric.html
Felt
Fabric Glue
Iron-On Transfer Printer Paper
Cardboard
Small Gauge Wire
White Fabric

Step 1: Disassembly

Okay, I admit it, I bought a spare remote to do this mod. I didn't want to chance breaking my mom's TV remote. I figured she could use the original remote as a backup. If you do buy a spare remote, make sure it is a direct factory replacement - one you don't need to program every time you replace the batteries.

Disassembly is easy. Four screws with one in the battery compartment. This remote consisted of four parts: top and bottom case, PWB and rubber-like button layer. You can discard the button layer.

After identifying the pads on the PWB that control the Power On/Off, Channel Up/Down and Volume Higher/Lower you'll want to expose the copper traces.I used an Exacto knife. You will need to expose the copper for soldering.

Next create a cardboard template. Just trace the top case onto cardboard and cut it out.You'll need this template throughout the mod.

Step 2: Step 2: Layout

I used Inkscape to layout the the buttons.
It is a free vector drawing program you can download from their website.
http://www.inkscape.org/
Since my mom's eyesight is failing, I made the buttons overly large, making the channel buttons the largest since I figured she used those more than the volume buttons. I also color coded the buttons for additional ease of use.

I then printed out the layout on special iron-on transfer printer paper. Per the iron-on instructions, transfer the layout to the final fabric. I used an old t-shirt for the final fabric that will cover the switch assembly.

Step 3: Textile Switch Assembly

Making the textile switch assembly is the hardest part of the mod.

Using your template, trace an outline on the felt and cut it out. Using your layout, on the felt, draw areas where the buttons will be located.Cut out the button areas in the felt. This piece of felt will act as a spacer between the conductive fabric.

Next, cut out ten pieces (2 for each button) of corresponding conductive fabric. Then cut pieces of wire. You'll need ten, each about 6 inches long. Strip off the ends and "tin' them using a soldering iron. To connect the wire to the conductive fabric, just thread them through at the corners and glue them to the fabric using fabric glue. Repeat this for all ten wires and patches of conductive fabric.

Before gluing the conductive fabric to the felt, make a cardboard backing out of thick cardboard. Place the backing on the top case of the remote and locate some existing holes where you can thread the wire through. Choose holes that do not cross over the new button locations. I located three areas where I could thread the wire through enclosure and used a hole punch on the cardboard backing.

Now you can start gluing the conductive fabric with wires onto the felt spacer. For the top contact pads of conductive fabric push the wires through the felt spacer where the holes line up on the cardboard backing. Then glue the bottom contact pads to the felt spacer.

Glue the combo felt spacer and conductive pads to the cardboard backing.

Using the template cut out another piece of felt. Glue this piece to the top of the assembly.
Lastly, using fabric glue, cover the entire assembly with your iron-on fabric. Trim off any excess material.

For another more detailed explanation on how to make a textile switch, please visit Leah's site:
http://www.cs.colorado.edu/~buechley/diy/diy_e_sewing.html#switch

Step 4: Solder

Thread the wires through the access holes and hot glue the switch assembly to the top case of the remote. You may need to break away some plastic bracing inside the remote top case to make room for the wires. Test fit it first, routing the wires away from any screw holes to make sure everything lays flat when assembled.

Strip and solder the wires to the PWB. I won't go into how to solder but here are a few sites that do:
https://www.instructables.com/id/How-to-solder/
http://www.sparkfun.com/commerce/present.php?p=SMD-HowTo-1
A soldering tip that I find very useful is to "tin" the parts prior to soldering together.

After soldering, use a hot glue gun to deposit small globs of glue to the wires on the PWB. This will help hold the wires to the PWB so that they won't accidentally rip off during assembly.

Step 5: Final Assembly

The final step is to screw everything back together and to test it out. Hopefully you didn't cause any shorts in the mod process.

I encased the remote in a plastic ziplock bag because my mom frequently eats fried chicken when watching TV. No not really, I didn't want the iron-on to rub off with usage.

By the way, my mom loves her new 'senior' remote.

Please feel to leave comments! :-)

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    102 Discussions

    Great idea, but you put in so much effort! I hope it worked out for your mom!

    Instead of going through this for my mother, I just bought her a Button Blocker...I put the cover on her remote, and now she can't press the wrong buttons :-)

    1 reply

    I should have added a link to my comment yesterday...

    http://www.ButtonBlocker.com

    The process of making the remote is interesting and the lovely thing you made for your Maa is really appreciable. Good.

    1 reply

    A cell phone needs to be much simpler for some of our elderly folks. My mom is always complaining about her Sony Ericson T637 being too complex. She wants one that only calls and texts. Anyone know how to hack the firmware on a non-Android phone?

    Senior Phone made simple:
      DIAL          END

    KID #1     KID#2
       GRANDKIDS
    RANDOM PERSON
                 911
    HOME SHOP/CHNL

    Try www.just5.com they have a very simple phone with a alert function, and less expensive than any other phone or services.

    No I have not. I just looked them up and they look interesting. Not exactly the thing I'm looking for but thank you for bringing that to my attention. Actually, since I posted that last comment, I have talked to my mom who says she likes her phone. So I won't be able to do anything for a while.

    I wish you would start a company and make these. They would be a God Send for the caregivers of people with Parkinson's and Alzheimer's Disease. I don't have the time, tools or skills. TV becomes the only thing they can do that is safe and it becomes so extremely frustrating for them and us.

    1 reply

    There are a couple of companies that sell similar products.
    http://www.activeforever.com/p-1944-tek-pal-remote-control.aspx
    www.flipperremote.com
    Thanks for leaving the comment! : )