Trying to build a media center for my Autistic son - I need some advice please


Standard Member
I'm looking for advice please. My 20 year autistic old son lives full-time 150 miles away from us in a specialist college that caters for his very complex self-harming needs, he has no verbal language but is able to somehow make his needs known through signing or otherwise. He likes to retreat to his bedroom when things get too much for him in the college and he really enjoys a selection of Captain Scarlet, Thunderbirds and Disney VHS videos and DVDs. Trouble is, when he handles a DVD he gets sticky marks all over it and the way DVDs work is that you need to make multiple selections with the remote control to start the movie, which he's not capable of doing on his own, so he gets frustrated with it all and ends up either biting or scratching the DVD or damaging it in some way so that it doesn't play anymore. The videos get damaged through playing and he struggles to rewind them and not all his carers understand his sign for 'rewind my video please'. This leads to frustration too.

Here's what I am trying to build for him, and wondered if the good folks here can advise me or point me in the right direction. I want to build a tablet based media center for him where he can access a touchscreen with a series of icons that correspond to any one of his favourite films - he likes a core of 10 to 20 films, maximum, I want him to be simply able to touch an icon on the screen that represents one of his favourite movies and kicks off that movie with one touch and outputs the movie via HDMI straight to his TV.

The system would have to boot-up straight to this movie selection screen for him. What platform would folks suggest here? It needs to be touch type interface, with a built in USB or HDMI or TV output, a device with either an on-board HDD disk or SS memory - I would like to have up to 64GB disk or SS Memory? What OS is robust as this? He or his carers aren't always capable of a multi-step shut-down procedure, it needs to be switched on or off at the wall - that level of robustness without damamging the OS or system.

I have never ripped DVDs before, obviously the choice of DVD ripping software would depend upon the OS on the selected touch screen platform, anyone have any ideas here?

Cost isn't too much of an issue, but hoping spend less than 1000 GB pounds USD $1,500.Thanks for the advice


Distinguished Member
You may also want to consider posting in streamers and network media players, given your son's disabilities a HTPC can be a very frustrating experience sometimes, a dedicated set top box might be the way to go.

If going with a HTPC you can always self build but the Pulse box is worth a look at this is made by a group associated with XBMC team and it comes with a dedicated remote with XBMC already running on the box. From there you can use XBMC Commander or XBMC Android remote to select media to play via touch screen.

(I would not recommend XBMC on AppleTV1 as it runs very hot with person prone to self harm may be dangerous and AppleTV2 has no USB ports so network storage only, the old Xbox 1 builds of XBMC do not work with modern XBMC anymore or it's features like the touch remote's)

HDI Dune players can also do this, you would probably want to get the DuneTV301 which takes an internal 2.5" drive to store the movies and you can use the Zappiti jukebox with it (this requires PC setup first) then you can use the Zappiti iOS remote to control playback.

Tvix players can also do this, rip DVD's to ISO images, place each one in a folder, put a .jpg cover in each folder then activate thumbnail mode on the player, then using smartphone/tablet access the webpage of the media player and it has a basic mock-up of the player allowing you to play media using the touchscreen.

To auto switch inputs a Logitech Harmony remote would probably have to be used, they do offer a tablet style remote but it's just a big touch screen remote nothing more. There are some remote apps on Android/iOS app store though I've never used them so how well they can work vs a Logitech Harmony is something someone else may be able to help on or have a look into yourself.
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