Physical Computing: TV Volume Regulator
In my physical computing class at CMU, we had the opportunity to work with a group of older people who attend OSHER Lifelong Learning Institute at Carnegie Mellon University. We collaborated with Lois, one of the OSHER students, and after an in-house interview where we discussed her needs and daily routine , we designed a volume regulator for her television. Often at night, when she watches TV with her husband Irv, the volume of the commercial is much louder than the volume of the regular TV program. To solve this problem, I decided to create a device that uses IR signals to interact with her TV. When the TV gets too loud the device automatically turns down the volume. After 30 seconds, or by pressing a button, the device is able to turn the volume back up.
The device is designed to sit on the table in Lois’ den positioned directly in front of the television. The device will listen and if the sound that it hears is continuously above a threshold for a period of time, it will send IR codes to the TV to lower the volume. After 30 seconds, the TV will send signals to raise the volume back up, presuming that the TV commercials have ended and the regularly scheduled TV program is back on.
Using the knob, Lois can change the threshold of the volume that she would like the TV to be set to. The button on top, is in some ways an override button. If for some reason the volume is lowered due to background noise, or the commercials end early, Lois can press the button to switch it to the other state. The device uses a 5V cable to connect to power and has a rocker switch to turn the device on/off.
Renderings of Final Product
We began the project with an in-house interview with our client, Lois. At the initial meeting, we wanted to gain some insight into what our client, Lois wanted for her assistive device. We met Lois at her home on Monday, March 25, at 9:45 AM.
After interviewing Lois, we determined that we would focus on designing a TV volume regulator for Lois and Irv’s den. A constant issue that Lois runs into is that when she is watching TV, as the commercials come on, the volume increases so much that Lois has to lower the volume using the remote.
This first prototype used an LCD screen and did not feature the button in the final product. After speaking with our client, she described the benefits of having the button added to the top of the device.
PROCESS OF first PROTOTYPE
Some places we considered for the placement of the device was the small space next to the television. However we decided that if Lois or Irv wanted to change the threshold of the volume, the space next to the TV’s speaker would be inconvenient to access. We then considered the coffee table which served as a good compromise to both the proximity to the TV as well as the accessibility to Lois and Irv. However, Lois and Irv preferred not to have the device on the coffee table, so we dismissed that idea. In the end we decided to move the placement of the device to the back table, due to the ease of access. One issue we do expect is the sound detection as well as the reliability IR transmitter, however once that issue arises, we will work that out with Lois.