Overview

In my lifelong struggle to deal with my neuromuscular disease Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA), I've built a variety of assistive technology devices. But the most powerful and useful device I've built is my "Ultimate Remote". It combines infrared control of TV, DVR/cable box, DVD/Blu-ray players as well as IR mouse and keyboard emulation. It also includes a Bluetooth device for iOS switch control of my iPhone or iPad. The first version of this device was created in late 2015 and it has evolved through several versions. It's always been my intent to document the device so that other disabled people can take advantage of what I've developed. Because it was an evolving design, I've not documented it until now. However, I've cleaned up the code, redesigned the 3D printed enclosure, and it's finally ready to share with the world.

This is a very complicated and sophisticated device that performs a wide variety of functions. This tutorial will be very long and requires significant maker skills including soldering, wiring, 3D printing, and a willingness to learn a lot about infrared device control and some Bluetooth functions. While it isn't necessary to know any Arduino programming in C++, you should be familiar with how to connect the board to the Arduino IDE, modify a sketch, and upload it.

Adaptations and Support

One of the main advantages of maker-built assistive technology is that it can be adapted to a particular user's needs. This tutorial describes everything that I have put into my ultimate remote. You may need to modify or adapt it to your particular needs. I will describe some options along the way but for the most part this tutorial will describe the device that I build for myself and you will have to make your own modifications or adaptations. Feel free to contact me for advice especially when it comes to configuring the infrared controls for your TV and other devices.

Normally I could not give individual support to readers of these tutorials however for those that will use this device, it has the potential to have a great impact in their independence and ability to overcome their handicaps. The device has been a lifesaver for me literally. I used the Bluetooth switch control to communicate with doctors and nurses when I could not speak well on a ventilator in the hospital. All of the Fusion 360 design work, all of the programming, and all of the writing of this tutorial including everything the videos was done with the assistance of this Ultimate Remote and dictation software Dragon NaturallySpeaking. That should illustrate how important this device is to people like me.

If you need assistance building or configuring the device feel free to contact me at [email protected] or visit Facebook at the ATMakers Facebook page. We will give you as much help as we can with this or other assistive technology issues.

Composition

The device includes an LCD TFT display, an M0 Feather BLE SAMD21 processor, a Li-Ion battery and a Power Boost 1000c. The battery and Power Boost can be used not only to power the device but also provide supplemental power to an iPhone. We've included a barrel jack to make recharging easier so you don't wear out the micro B USB connector on the Power Boost (which I've done).

Note: You cannot recharge the battery using the micro USB on the feather board itself. You can only recharge it using the micro USB on the power boost or through the barrel jack.

Receiver and Building Block Tutorials

If you're going to use the device to control mouse and keyboard functions on a PC or laptop, you will also need to construct a receiver dongle using an Adafruit Trinket M0 and an IR receiver chip.

The device uses an open source IR transmitter board that I developed. Complete instructions on how to build that board are available in a separate tutorial here.

The IR transmit and receive functions are handled by an open source library called IRLib2. Here is a tutorial on how to use that library. 

There is also an extensive user's manual available with the library and I am available to answer individual questions about its use.

The iOS switch control functions are explained in more detail in this tutorial.

Project Genesis

You might want to make yourself familiar with all of the above before embarking on this project.

If you are interested in the background and evolution of this device, I have some blog entries that document my various struggles to operate IR devices and how the Ultimate Remote came into being.

The last link is a video that shows a variety of assistive technology devices I use around my house but a big portion of it is devoted to demonstrating the use of the Ultimate Remote. If you have questions you can email me at [email protected].

This guide was first published on Sep 23, 2019. It was last updated on Sep 23, 2019. This page (Overview) was last updated on Dec 05, 2019.