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Friday, August 19, 2011

How to mute annoying celebrities on your TV

Sometimes it’s nice to just plop yourself down on the couch and enjoy a little TV. Try as you might, there are always some unwanted interruptions that break into your favorite programs — often in the form of celebrities you’ve grown tired of seeing on the tube. Unfortunately, the popularity of folks like Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga, Paris Hilton, and Kanye West (all on last year’s Most Annoying People list from the BBC) means they’re something you’ve got to live with.

Sure, you can just change the channel, but that’s so old school. If electronics manufacturers can help with annoying ad volumes by automatically preventing commercials from blowing our eardrums, shouldn’t someone be able to come up with a way to selectively silence celebs?

That someone could be you, as long as you can follow instructions and don’t mind a little bit of DIY electronic tinkering. Over at Make, one hardware hacker has shared the fruits of his labour: the Enough Already.

Enough Already is a remix of two projects built using the popular DIY electronics prototyping kit from Arduino — a closed caption device and an infrared transmitter. It’s a tiny device that takes an analog video input from your cable/satellite/TV (or other device if necessary) and scans the NTSC signal for the closed-caption text. With a bit of monkeying about with some custom code, you can get the device to “listen” for keywords you want to avoid. Had enough of a certain company’s insipid commercial? Add it to your blacklist. When keywords are detected, audio is automatically muted for 30 seconds. It’s by no means perfect, but it’s a clever example of what’s possible with home hacking kits like the Arduino-based one used in Enough Already.

The Make post also spells out some uses that might be more to your liking. For example, an indicator light or buzzer that helps you and your pals keep pace with your favorite TV or movie-based drinking games. This being Canada, I’m sure there also are a fair number of people that are thinking this might be a nice device to hack together in time for the upcoming run of Coach’s Corner.

It’s not for the faint-of-heart and you should probably know your way around a soldering iron and PHP code, but if you’re intrigued and want to give it a try, here’s a handy step-by-step tutorial video from the good folks at Make:


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