This lifehack shows you how to make hörbert into a real children’s radio – either live or prerecorded.
How-to: Upcycling an old cell phone or tablet to provide a radio transmitter for kids
What you need:
Your wireless network, an old cell phone or tablet and your hörbert with the Bluetooth module
One of the best things about hörbert is the freedom you have to play anything you want. The nine playlists allow you to have your own music or radio plays handy to play on the memory card at any time. This makes hörbert into a portable children’s player with a vast amount of content.
And did you know about hörbert’s Bluetooth module for retrofitting? It allows you to use Bluetooth headphones with hörbert – and even two sets of headphones with one hörbert. Twice the fun in one unit.
But did you know that hörbert with the Bluetooth module can also be used as a Bluetooth loudspeaker? This opens up a whole new universe of possibilities for your hörbert – streaming!
Rather than the content being stored on hörbert’s memory card, streaming means it is being sent directly from another device to hörbert as you are listening to it. There are many services on the Internet that stream music and plays, and you can use your hörbert to listen to them. It’s really neat and you can learn more about it here.
The principle is really simple.
For streaming, you need a playback device that hörbert can connect to. On this playback device, you set up what you want the hörbert Bluetooth speaker to play. (hörbert can play a “station” that you configure on the playback device to its speaker; the colored buttons are inoperational in this case.)
And where could you get a playback device like this? You probably already have a few of them lying around in a drawer, as most old smartphones or tablets are perfect for this. You don’t need a cell phone contract and there are a load of free streaming services available on the Internet.
So your playback device is lying around somewhere in a cupboard or on a shelf, and hörbert can connect to it over Bluetooth within a radius of about 10 meters (33 feet). That is easily enough for a standard children’s room, but longer or shorter ranges are also possible depending on structural conditions.
Each time you switch your hörbert into Bluetooth speaker mode, it automatically plays the streaming content.
This is how to set up your cell phone or tablet playback device:
1.) Connect up the phone or tablet you want to use to its charger. This ensures your playback device will be kept continuously supplied with power.
2.) Make sure that your playback device cannot be called or perform any other unexpected actions, as these may cause disruption to reliable operation. As a precaution, delete all alarm times and apps with notifications. The ideal would be to reset the phone or tablet to its factory settings.
3.) Install an app that can play back streaming content. Here, we are using Audible as an example. You can read more below about the requirements and special features of apps.
4.) Test the app by selecting some content and pressing “Play”. You should be able to hear the content through the speaker of your phone or tablet. After this test, press “Pause” again.
5.) Now activate Bluetooth in the settings and display new devices in the vicinity.
This is how to connect hörbert to your playback device:
1.) Naturally, your hörbert must be equipped with the Bluetooth module. If you don’t have it yet, you can buy the Bluetooth module for hörbert here.
2.) Your hörbert must be switched off to set it up.
3.) On the Bluetooth module, switch on the functions “Bluetooth”, “Pair” and “Autoplay” by setting switches 5, 6 and 7 to “ON”.
4.) Switch your hörbert on, wait a few seconds and then switch it off again. This puts hörbert in Bluetooth speaker mode, and you’ll hear two tones, with the second one having a higher pitch. hörbert will now be visible in the Bluetooth environment.
5.) On your playback device, you should now be able to find the Bluetooth device “hörbert”. Next, you need to “pair” hörbert with your playback device. “To pair” sounds funny but it just means that the two devices will recognize each other in the future. Unfortunately, it doesn’t mean that they’ll produce any offspring – new little hörberts or phones!
6.) When you now press “Play” in the Audible app on your playback device, you’ll hear the content playing over hörbert’s speaker rather than on the phone or tablet.
7.) Flip hörbert’s toggle switch (to switch hörbert on). hörbert should now directly play the content from its memory card.
8.) Flip hörbert’s toggle switch again (switching hörbert off). hörbert is now really switched off and is no longer in Bluetooth speaker mode.
9.) To prevent hörbert from trying to connect with other devices in the future, you should now deactivate its pairing. To do this, set switch 6 (“Pair”) on the Bluetooth module to “OFF”. Leave all of the other switches as they are.
That’s all of the configuration and you can now use hörbert as a radio. It goes like this:
Your playback device is there on the shelf. It’s switched on, all set up and good to go. The streaming app is active and is on “Pause”.
A) Switch hörbert on, wait a few seconds and switch it off again.
B) You’ll again hear two tones, with the second one having a higher pitch. hörbert then sends your playback device the command to start playing.
C) …that can take a couple of seconds, as the playback device first connects with Audible and then searches for the place where it last was.
D) hörbert then plays the content!
E) When you now flip hörbert’s toggle switch twice, hörbert is really switched off and is no longer in Bluetooth speaker mode..
Whenever you want to continue listening, start again with step A)
Requirements for the apps and special features
First of all: Not all apps are suitable for this purpose.
Some apps do not switch off the audio when you switch off hörbert, but continue to play through the speaker of the phone or tablet. Up there on the shelf, you obviously don’t want that at all.
Other apps do not play when you switch on hörbert if the lock screen is activated on the phone or tablet. With these apps, you have to disable the screen lock.
Here are some examples of apps that work well using these instructions:
Audible, Radio.de, Spotify
Examples of apps that have problems:
Spotify Kids – the phone or tablet plays the audio over the speaker when hörbert is switched off
Radio Teddy – does not work if lock screen is activated
We’d appreciate if you could let us know in the comments about your experiences with other apps. There are just too many for us to go into.
What is the power consumption like for the playback device?
A cell phone that’s plugged in with the charger and waiting for a connection with its lock screen activated consumes electricity. Not much, but still. A phone usually uses less power than a tablet.
If you’re using an app in which the lock screen cannot be activated, the device will use more power. If possible, you should turn on all power saving options on the phone or tablet and disable any background apps. You particularly don’t need any animated background images, wallpapers or the like.
If hörbert is not connected, the phone or tablet is not downloading any data from the Internet and not transmitting much. In this case, the device is consuming minimum power.
What about electromagnetic radiation?
If you have a wireless network running at home anyway, the playback device is just another device that uses that network. Moreover, the playback device up on the shelf or in the cupboard is well away from your child.
hörbert’s Bluetooth connection is based on the reception situation and the transmit power is minimal compared to a wireless network (Bluetooth maximum 2.5 milliwatts, wireless network in extreme cases 1,000 milliwatts). Therefore, you have the least possible radiation near your child. You can only have less with Bluetooth disabled and therefore no streaming.
Ideas for fully fledged users and some final tips:
• Instead of your wireless network, you could use a phone with a SIM card and a valid services plan. The important thing is that the phone can access the Internet somehow. However, please note that streaming consumes your data volume, which may result in high costs depending on your cell phone tariff. What’s more, if the reception is poor, cell phones transmit with 2,000 milliwatts of power in extreme cases.
• Tip: Place the phone or tablet with the display facing downwards on the cupboard or shelf so it is not emitting light at night – from an LED or the like, for example.
• Tip: For safety reasons, move the charging cable out of the reach of your child. It presents a strangulation risk, and besides, the phone or tablet could fall on the child’s head if they pull the cable.
• Tip: If you have set a switch-off time on your Bluetooth module, hörbert switches off after this amount of time even when it is in Bluetooth speaker mode.
So now…just have fun streaming!
Have you tried it out? Let us know about your experience in the comments!