Atmel’s ATiny85 powers this IRKey

Adafruit has debuted an IRKey powered by Atmel’s ATiny85 microcontroller (MCU). Essentially, the IRKey can be used to add a IR remote receiver to any computer, laptop, tablet or device with a USB port.

“This little board slides into any USB A port, and shows up as an every-day USB keyboard. The on-board ATiny85 microcontroller listens for IR remote signals and converts them to keypresses,” the Adafruit crew explained in a recent blog post. “We bundle this with our remote with 21 buttons so it controls nearly anything you want.”

As expected, the firmware can be re-programmed and customized, with the relevant files available on GitHub here. However, it should probably be noted that the IRKey is designed for use with Adafruit’s mini IR remote, meaning it won’t work with other remotes.

“It’s great for controlling an XBMC computer, but also nice when you want to make a clicker for watching videos or playing music on your computer or laptop,” the Adafruit crew added. “And since it’s just a USB keyboard, no drivers are required for any operating systems.”

The IRKey offers two modes: ASCII and Multimedia key. ASCII mode is default, which activates a single blink on startup and outputs all ASCII-type characters that any keyboard can generate. Meanwhile, multimedia mode (MM) has two blinks on startup and sends MM keys as seen on some keyboards. This mode allows users to control the volume or media players like Apple’s iTunes – even if it is in the background. The list of basic MM commands includes:

  • “Vol-” -> ‘-‘ in ASCII mode or ‘Volume down’ in Multimedia Key mode
  • “Vol+” -> ‘=’ in ASCII mode or ‘Volume up’ in Multimedia Key mode
  • “Play/pause” -> ‘ ‘ (space) in ASCII mode or ‘Play/Pause’ in Multimedia Key mode
  • “Setup” -> Escape key in ASCII mode or ‘Menu” in Multimedia Key mode
  • “Stop/Mode” -> ‘x’ in ASCII mode or ‘Stop’ in Multimedia Key mode
  • Up/Down/Left/Right -> Arrow keys in ASCII mode or Volume Up/Down and Prev/Next track in Multimedia Key mode
  • Enter/Save -> Enter key
  • Reverse -> Backspace key
  • 0 thru 9 -> ‘0’ thru ‘9’

Users can switch between modes by waiting until the IRKey is plugged in and working, then press down the mini button for one second. The LED will blink, confirming that the modes have switched.

Adafruit’s IRKey with remote is available here for $14.95.

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