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Project Page: Fluffremotter

Music in the Air

I wanted to listen to music in my kitchen but did not want to run speaker wires around the room.  The answer, of course, was to go wireless.

Old RecieverWe have an old Technics receiver that got kicked to the curb when a fancy new HDMI equipped model entered the apartment along with a TV upgrade.  Instead of buying a wireless speaker I decided to recycle the old workhorse by plugging in  an inexpensive Bluetooth music receiver.

The Technics receiver sits on top of a china cabinet and only the receiver and speakers are visible.  The Bluetooth unit is plugged into an AC outlet on the rear of the receiver and is out of site.  This works out great, since powering on the Technics  also turns on the Bluetooth receiver.

Old RemoteI like the idea of a twenty-plus year old receiver seemingly streaming music from an iPod Touch with no external equipment.  The Technics  remote control had been sitting on a window sill where it was easy to reach but out of the way of all the kitchen stuff.  It struck me that this did not fit with the stealth nature of the system.

Jumped Up Pantry Boy

PrototypeAs I pondered what a less conspicuous remote would look like I realized that the window sill is next to some shelves that serve as a pantry.

A remote could be disguised as a standard pantry item.  The decision of what type of container to use was an obvious one since I live in the city where Marshmallow Fluff was invented.  We even celebrate it with an annual festival.

Hardware in a Jar

The hardware for this project is pretty minimal.  All that is needed is a microcontroller, an IR LED and a NPN transistor.  The challenge was coming up with a way to mount it in a Fluff jar.

Assembled BoardOne day I was looking in my toolbox and noticed a piece of plastic hardware that came with a set of mini blinds.  Inspiration struck and I tested the slots in the plastic that are meant to slide onto a bracket to see if they would hold a piece of perfboard.  It was a perfect fit and a 9V battery is held firmly in place behind the board.

I cut a piece of perfboard to the width of the holder and long enough that it sits diagonally in the jar so that the lid holds it in place.

Reed SwitchIt was important to me that the jar really looks authentic when sitting on the shelf.  Plain white paper around the inside hides the electronics and gives a reasonable likeness of Fluff.  The IR LED is on the bottom of the jar out of sight.  I still needed a way to power on the remote.

One option would be to place a button on the bottom of the jar,  where the LED is.  This would make it awkward to operate and probably require two hands.  I considered putting a red button on the red lid and hopping that it would be inconspicuous.  In the end I chose to use a reed switch to turn the remote on and off.

Magnet CageWhen the jar is on the pantry shelf a magnet sits at the bottom of the jar.  When the jar is pointed up toward the receiver the magnet slides up the perfboard toward the reed switch and the circuit is powered.  The magnet is kept from falling off the perfboard by a Magnet Cage  on the bottom of the board.  Female headers on either side of the board prevent a fall off the edge and a right-angle male header plugged onto one of the females keeps it from falling off the top.  The magnet can only slide up as far as the microcontroller and down to the bottom of the jar.

The program on the microcontroller continually sends the power on/off code for the receiver using the IRremote library.  I could not find the remote code online and had to read it off an IR sensor, hooked up to an Arduino Uno, using the IRrecvDump example script that comes with the library.

Tilted not Shaken

FluffremotterI felt pretty suave picking up a Fluff jar and waving it in the air to power on a music system.  In my mind it was reminiscent of 007. then my daughter opined that it looked fit for Maxwell Smart.  That put things in perspective.


Parts Bin

Parts Bin

Really Bare Bones Board

from Modern Device

Reed Switch

from Tayda Electronics

NPN transistor

from Tayda Electronics

IR sensor

from Adafruit