The Media Center is The Gateway Drug for DIY Hacking
DIY Home Entertainment Systems

The Evolution of the Smart Living Room

Looking for a way to stream movies and TV shows to your HDTV even without Wi-Fi?  With Netflix now ranked as one of the top broadcasters in America, it’s clear that our media consumption habits have changed and the connected living room revolution is well underway.  So if you haven’t yet upgraded your media center, or if you’re looking to expand your existing setup, we’re presenting a few of the ways you can modernize your living space.  We’ll cover a few projects here that help you turn a standard LED TV into a smart-TV, build your own digital streaming media center, make a cool wireless speaker and do much more, all without breaking the bank.

OSMC | The Open Source Media Center

OSMC is the 2.0 evolution of Raspbmc, a project we originally found at Make. Put together by London based engineer Sam Nazarko, Raspbmc was one of the first operating systems for the Raspberry Pi that ran XMBC/Kodi.

With OSMC, the folks from Raspbmc have evolved their offering from a DIY system architecture to mature hardware with their launch of Vero, a true next level open source media player designed to compete with the likes of AppleTV and Roku.

“use the system as a hub for all your media files, watch your personal collection of digital movies on your PC through a shared folder, or even stream via AirPlay”

While the Vero outperforms RaspberryPi in a few key departments, if you’re not looking to buy a new device or if just want to have some fun putting Raspbmc to work on your Pi 2, Michael Castor from Make put together a very easy step-by-step guide on building this Raspberry Pi media center, which uses Raspbmc, an XBMC/Kodi port, to transform your Pi board into a HTPC. You can finish this whole project in less than 30 minutes and start watching movies right away.

Once done, you can use the system as a hub for all your media files, watch your personal collection of digital movies on your PC through a shared folder, or even stream via AirPlay with a simple Wi-Fi setup.

Getting Netflix and Amazon running on your new system takes some extra work and you’ll also have to spend a few bucks on additional software. Check out the video below to learn how to do that and get stuff done with the new Pi Media Center.

Raspberry Pi Smart TV

We know that TV prices are dropping all the time. You can now get a quality 50-inch SmartTV for well under $1,000, but why spend the extra cash if you already have an HDTV and can spare a few bucks to build your own SmartTV using nothing but a Raspberry Pi and your existing unit?

WARNING: Connected living room hacks are the equivalent of the gateway drug to DIY making and hardware hacking.

This project created by Donald Derek not only shows us how to turn an old HDTV into a Smart TV, but also gives you a cool Smart Remote app to control the TV with your iPhone. Derek’s Smart TV runs on Google TV and he’s even built a beautiful user interface just for this project. You can find all the instructions on how to build this Smart TV over at Derek’s blog. And after you’re finished with the setup, you may want to install the Omxplayer for streaming online videos.

For those of you who are new to the whole DIY thing, try the simple video guide made by YouTube user Grid21. This guide shows you how to create a Smart TV that can stream YouTube, Twitch and more in a few easy steps.


Wi-Fi Radio

Okay, so you’ve got the media center baked a DIY Smart TV console to enjoy Avengers in all its glory, let’s make a cool internet radio player with a Raspberry Pi that uses Pandora to stream music around the house. Enter the Raspberry Pi Wi-Fi Hi-Fi.



AdaFruit user Phillip Burgess’ Wi-Fi radio project is a Raspberry Pi build with a 4GB SD Card, an LCD+Keypad kit, a speaker and a USB Wi-Fi adapter for streaming music. You’ll have to work with some intermediate commands and scripts along the way.  But no worries, even if you’re new to Linux and command line you’ll do just fine, as long as you stick to the instructions.


 DIY Bluetooth Speaker

If you’re done with this project and looking for more, you can take the hack a step further and make a cool-looking Bluetooth speaker for your new Wi-Fi radio. Using this, you’ll be able to listen to music across rooms wirelessly. Fifteen-year-old Instructables genius, Angelo Casimiro, has the perfect project to get this done in 9 easy steps, spending less than $15.

The best part of about this design is how Angelo has brilliantly managed to neatly pack all the components inside an old eyeglass container. At first sight, it looks more like an out-of-the-box wireless speaker.  Kudos, and thanks, Angelo!


More Great Projects

In our quest for cutting edge connected living room entertainment hacks we found several other great projects for you guys to try, please check some of these out and let us know what you think in the comments below:



Google’s thumb-sized media streaming stick Chromecast is the best alternative to Apple’s AirPlay. You can buy one of these from Google, but where’s the fun in that, right? For makers who love to create, apcMag has a great guide on creating your own DIY Chromecast at home.



If you’re a true cord cutter, you can also check out these extremely easy DIY HDTV antenna projects if you’d like to watch more channels on your TV for free.



If your smartphone isn’t distraction enough for you drivers out there, now you can bring the connected living room to your car!  The CarPC is a Raspberry Pi powered touchscreen computer that will make the inside of your old car feel brand spanking new. This system runs Xbian, a light-weight version of XBMC, and lets you play music, video, view pictures, play games and more.


WARNING: Connected living room hacks are the equivalent of the gateway drug to DIY making and hardware hacking. Everyone loves home entertaibnment, so these are some of the best beginner projects to get some impressive results. If you’re a noob, these projects may look intimidating at first, but once you get started building you’ll learn rapidly along the way. Don’t be afraid to challenge yourself and go build something cool, and don’t forget to come back and show it to us when you’re done!

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