Solution: Control a TV with Voice or Pre-programmed Buttons

By: Frank Engelman.  Updated: October 02, 2020.

 

The Problem: "Senior" Finds TV Hard to Use

As older adults develop physical and mental frailties, they sometimes have difficulty using products they want to be able to continue to use: such as the TV.

For example, physical impairments, like arthritis or tremor, may make it hard to press buttons. And cognitive impairments may make it hard for them to remember the way to navigate to a particular channel or streaming "show"..... More about the Problem


 

Solution: Control a TV with Voice or Pre-programmed Buttons

I found I needed different solutions, depending on exactly what problem the older adult in question had. 

Below, I describe three solutions — starting with a simple voice command to set the TV to a specific program; and escalating to special pre-programmed buttons that can be positioned near the TV and which, when pressed, automatically start the desired program.

 

All these solutions use something called Google Routines to keep things simple.

 

Solution A: Voice Commands & Google Routines

Lets assume your mother needs a way to watch her TV series — other than by using her remote. Perhaps because using the remote is confusing, or perhaps because she has some dexterity problems.

You could set up her "Google Assistant" so it plays a specific show (eg "Heartland") when she says a complex Google Assistant command such as “Hey Google, play Heartland on Netflix on Living Room TV”.

But what if she has trouble remembering all the elements of this command? I know I do!

Google Home Routines provides a way to invoke the above command by a simple command such as “Hey Google, play Heartland”.

 

See instructions for setting up the Google Routine in the "Solution A" section below.

Also, you can remotely modify her Google Home Routines, in case her program tastes change. There is no need to physically access the tablet or Flic buttons (of the more complex solutions) later to make changes.

 

Here is a YouTube video showing it in action

 

Instructions

Hardware Required:

  • Chromecast is either built into the TV or as a plug-in dongle
  • An Android tablet to run the software

 

Solution C additions

  • Requires a Google Nest hub or Google Nest mini
  • Flic buttons (no need for the Flic hub) (see on Flic website)

 

Solution B: Just Tap Large Buttons on a Tablet to Start a Specific Show

If your Mom still has a problem saying the commands after you create one of the simplifed voice commands above, you could add Google Action Blocks to an Android tablet.

This solution lets you provide large on-screen icons that she could tap to play her favorite shows.

 

 

Instructions

Install these apps from the Google Play Store

  • Google Home
  • Google Assistant
  • Google Action Blocks
  • Optional
    • Netflix
    • YouTube

screenshot 1

  • You might want to set “restricted mode” to filter context
  • In Google Home, create a routine
    • Tap Routine- manage Routines

screenshot 2

  • Create a similar routine, using the name of your Chromecast device
    • You could now say “OK Google, Heartland” and it would start playing

 

  • In Google Action Blocks

screenshot 3

  • Create a similar Action Block
    • You can now tap on the screen to lunch that video

 

Solution C: Actual Physical Buttons that Start a Specific Show

If your Mom has dexterity issues and can’t hold a tablet, you could add the Flic app with physical buttons to speak the Google Assistant commands for her.

In this solution, the older adult presses a button (that might be marked "Heartland").

The button communicates wirelessly with a nearby tablet or smartphone, which "speaks" a command for her, after which the Google Routine activates the specific show (Heartland).

This will require a tablet or a smartphone that is charging so that the Flic app can “speak” the commands to Google Assistant when the Flic buttons are pushed.

Note: If your phone or tablet doesn’t support “hands-free” Google Assistant mode, i.e., you need to push the home button to get its attention, you will need to add an “always listening” device such as a Nest Hub or Nest mini to hear the spoken command from Flic.

 

Instructions

You will need to perform the steps in Solution B first. Then:

  • Setup the Google Nest device
  • Install the Flic app and add buttons

screenshot 4

  • Create a similar action

You should now be able to push a button and get that video to play.

 

 

 

More Like This

This is part of a series of "Problems" and DIY Technology "Solutions" to the challenges faced by older adults, by Frank Engelman. 

 


 

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Target customers & users: 
Aging individuals, Family of the aging
How important is it?: 
Moderate problem
Filed as: 
Key words: