Clever hacks to repurpose old Video Conference Remote as a control interface for ROS2

I’ve been collecting parts for a robot design I had in mind for well over 20 years. Unfortunately, this missing and most essential part of the robots I want to build is the operating system. That is why I am so excited about what John is doing and to be a part of this community.

Since Josh is talking about control interfaces, I thought I would share a device that I’ve been holding to use someday. It’s a remote-control pad for a PictureTel Conference room control. You can pick these up on eBay for very little. Essentially, it is just a giant IR remote control. I have sniffed the codes using an Arduino IR decoder.

So, at the easiest, an Arduino could be dedicated to decoding the IR and passing that to a ROS2 node for control. Or, for increased reliability, we could skip the IR and just tap into the signal to the IR LED array on the front. Or scan the internals and just use it as a nice box of switches.

In any case, I want to share this to get people thinking about alternative uses for devices for your robots.

Updated: Here is a link to photos of the PictureTel Remote

PS: Not sure how to upload the file I wanted to include. But the concept can be applied to any remote. The one I wanted to show has a hundred buttons, joystick clusters, etc.

Nice, that means we can use any IR remote like the ones for TV, AC etc for robot control. Never thought of this before.

NB: Your 20-year parts collection was inspirational to me.

Thanks Eric, that sounds like an interesting approach! I’d be keen to see if any other people have creative ways to control their robots!

Re uploads, yeah it is currently disabled (that’s mentioned in a few places but not always obvious, I need to find a way to make it clearer) as the server I am using to host has minimal storage space.

You need to upload them to an image hosting site (imgur is probably the most popular) and then they can be linked and should display here.

At some point I need to at least see if I can figure out how to block image uploads in posts while still allowing profile pictures, and then down the track I will look at renting a bigger server and allowing uploads of limited size. Too many things to do and managing the forum always ends up at the bottom of the list!

OK, thanks for that tip. Updated: Here’s a link to photos of the PictureTel Remote. Items like these were often discarded and sold on eBay when companies upgraded to newer video conferencing systems. Some are wired and some are IR like this one. Even if only using as a box of switches, there’s a lot of good stuff there. Ideally, I would like to learn enough to add a 4x20 LCD and code an Arduino to act as a node and listener to ROS2.

Interesting - that’s a lot of buttons!