Turning one’s remote control into a gesture-controlled box was Belgian maker Frederick Vandenbosch’s idea. He presented his prototype, inspired by his children, at Paris Maker Faire in April.
We first noticed 32-year-old Flemish maker Frederick Vandenbosch—“IT engineer by day and amateur electronics engineer by night”—last April at Maker Faire Paris, where he was exhibiting his work for the first time. His stand displayed mysterious, minimalist boxes, most encasing a Raspberry Pi, the low cost credit card-sized multi-purpose computer.
Next to a box topped with a funny big red button, which hosted Amazon’s latest IoT software Echo, another wooden box, thin and flat, was acting as a motion sensor to control a device that can be found in (almost) every household: the television set.
The Gesture Based TV Remote Control is a remote-control box that reacts when you move your hand over it. Three specific gestures for three functions: on/off by drawing a circle with the finger, volume up/down by swiping up or down, and the highlight, surf through channels by swiping left with a single finger, as if turning the pages of a book. A dream come true for a teenager coming home after school.
It was while observing his young children, aged 3 and 5, effortlessly navigating through their tablet that the young maker dad thought up an equivalent for the TV. And it’s not the first time Frederick has been inspired by his children. In 2013, one year after having discovered the world of Arduino and Raspberry Pi, he entered an electronics contest to capture Santa’s visit, and with the participation of his young daughter (the project was well hidden inside the Christmas tree), took the prize.
For the Gesture Based TV Remote Control, Frederick used a sensor that recognizes the position of your finger in the air—the aptly named Skywriter Hat, which fits perfectly on top of a Raspberry Pi. He then made a circuit that receives data from the Skywriter and transmits the signals to the TV.
He used LIRC (Linux Infrared Remote Control), an open source infrared remote-control software for TV or decoder, to convert the signals. As a conscientious maker, Frederick shares all the steps of this project (as well as all the others) including the code, on his website and YouTube channel. To complete the project, Frederick used a CNC to fabricate a perfectly adjusted enclosure.
Gesture Based TV Remote Control, Frederick Vandenbosch’s tutorial:
At Maker Faire, visitors pointed out to Frederick that the device would also be useful for elderly or disabled people. “My wife is now encouraging me to simplify its design even more and make it as inexpensive as possible so that anybody can make one,” he says. Proof that his creations are more than original, Frederick was pleasantly surprised when he found the “Maker of Merit” ribbon pinned by the Maker Faire organizers on the Pi Photo Booth, a mini photo booth he also designed.