Friday, December 22, 2006

Hack your McDonalds iZ toy into an IR receiver

My kids have collected about ten of those little iZ happy meal toys from McDonalds. A lot of them light up and make different sounds when you twist body parts, but others just light up when you press the button and don't make any noise. Those aren't very impressive. I was trying to figure out a way to give these less fortunate iZ toys a purpose in life, so I decided to transform one into an IR receiver for my whole-house IR repeater system. (It lets me control the TiVo from any room that has a TV an IR receiver.)

So, here's my iZ of choice -- the orange iZ. You press his belly, and his beak lights up. Pretty simple. Also, next to him is the IR receiver that will become part of him. (Ever seen that movie "The Fly?")

Here's what an iZ look like when it's taken apart. You might need one of those three-sided screwdrivers to take the screws out. Or, you can get creative with a flat-head screwdriver. Once you get the three screw out, you will find out that it is also glued togeteher. The good news is that the glue isn't around the edges. It's just on four posts, and with a little prying with a screwdriver, you can snap the two halves apart.

And here's the IR receiver. It has three wires: ground, 5V, and the output.

The first part was to remove the white belly piece an drill a hole in the middle. This will be the window for the IR receiver. I also removed a chunk of the IR receiver case and hot-glued it over the hole. Then I hot-glued the IR receiver module to the belly piece, and hot-glued the whole thing into the body of the iZ.

After running the cable through the hole in the back of the iZ where the on/off switch used to be, I re-soldered the wires. As for the LED already installed in the beak of this thing, it would be cool if the beak would flash when the IR receiver gets a signal. So, since the output of the IR receiver is normally at 5V and gets pulled to ground when there's an IR signal, the LED is wired in series with a 330 ohm resistor between the 5V line and the IR module output line. Make sure you don't get the LED backwards. See how it's attached to the original battery before you remove it. I marked the negative leg with a black marker.

So, here it is all soldered together, ready to be re-assembled.

And here's the result.

Need a whole-house IR repeater network to hook this up to? I have one for you. Click here.

See the IR iZ in action! Click the play button below to see a video on YouTube.


Anonymous said...


This is great. Please e-mail me your contact information at I would like to speak to you abou this amazing project.

John Sevinsky said...

Thanks! You can get more information about me (including my email address) if you view my profile.

Anonymous said...

Hi John,

Would it be possible for you to list the parts used and also a circuit diagram?


Bud Stych

John Sevinsky said...

Parts List: An iZ with an LED in its beak, an IR receiver module, and a 330 ohm resistor. The pictures and the text describe how to wire it up. It's really not much of a circuit, so I didn't think a schematic was necessary.

Of course, then there's the IR repeating network you'll have to plug it into, and if you don't already have that, then there's no point in building this thing.

Anonymous said...

Is there a battery in the Iz that can be replaced?

John Sevinsky said...

Yes, I it had two or three watch-type batteries. It is possible to replace them.