Is there anyway to make your homebuilt DVR even more awesome? You bet! How about dropping that 20th century remote control and using something a little more Star Trek…like your voice.

Read on for the cheapest, easiest and most DVR specific way to start telling your TV what to do.


The most crucial element of your voice controlled HTPC is your microphone. If your mic is noisy and inaccurate, than your DVR won’t understand what you’re saying and that old-fashioned remote will suddenly seem much more convenient.

Since my DVR features a lovely USB hub that rests under my coffee table, I decided to go with a USB microphone. This reduces wires, provides a built-in power source, and keeps the wife happy.


There are a handful of shareware programs that utilize Windows XP’s built-in speech support to give you a nice, cheap solution. Of the few that I tried, Voice Activated Command (VAC) came out on top. And for only $10, it’s easy on the wallet.

Download Voice Activated Command

Teaching VAC

Voice Activated Command
VAC has two parts to it: Builder and System. Use Builder to create commands and System to actually use those commands.

Here are the steps to Build a command in VAC Builder.

  1. Create a profile: File->New Profile
  2. Add an action description: “Add” on main screen
  3. Now you decide what this action will do: open a program or press a key
    • To open a program: look at the “Special Functions” section and click “Launch Program” and then find the .exe you want
    • To press a key: Look at the “Command List” section and enter the keys you want. Use “qualifier” and “extender” keys to use CTRL/ALT combinations.
  4. Add an “activation phrase” by clicking “Add” in the bottom left. The activation phrase is what you will say to run the action you just created.
  5. Now click “edit” and “say” the phrase you will use (”TV,” turn off”, “mute,” etc).
  6. Finally test the phrase by clicking “Test Phrase” on the bottom right. If VAC recognizes your phrase, it will bring up a window. If not, try editing your action phrase.

Speak To VAC

Now that you have a profile and some actions programmed, load up VAC System. It should appear in your system tray. Right click and load your profile and then right click and make sure VAC is on. Speak away!

Some phrases I use include “TV” to launch Beyond TV or “iTunes” to run (you guessed it) iTunes. For some real fun, try using a phrase like “FOX” to tune into The Simpsons or “HBO” to catch a Sopranos rerun. The possibilities are endless. Have fun building your voice controlled DVR!

This post was inspired by this awesome instructable.

Image credit: Johnsto

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