One of the best things about Android devices, especially those running vanilla versions of the OS straight out of the box, is the ability to thoroughly customise the look and feel of the interface to suit yourself. Ross McClardy, AKA @mr_bridger, has taken this to the next level with his Nexus 7 tablet. Not only has he created a custom Knight Rider inspired interface for the tablet when used in his car, a 1995 Toyota Celica, with a little electronics know-how has fully integrated the device into the dash.
In his own words, something bugging Ross has been “the lack of Android based in car entertainment systems”. Holding up his Nexus 7 to the dash showed that it would be just about the perfect size, so armed with a quick sketch done on his Galaxy Note tablet, the project was born.
The first step involved obtaining a spare dash panel from eBay and doing the various trimming and sanding required to fit the Nexus 7 behind and also moving the head unit up to where the 2 vents normally sit.
Second was the problem that with the Nexus 7 flush inside the dash, the power and audio connectors would be inaccessible. Another trip to eBay and Ross was the proud owner of a second hand Nexus 7 with a broken screen – perfect for cannibalising the required parts. With a spare ribbon cable, a few extra wires, some careful soldering and a fair bit of strong masking tape, Ross was able to run audio cables out of the tablet, create a new external power switch and move the USB connector outside of the tablet allowing for power to be connected behind the dash.
With some more use of tape and a glue gun, all that was left was to attach the Nexus 7 to the modified dash and wire everything in behind. A 12V USB car adapter was wired in and an AUX+ to 3.5mm cable was used to connect the tablet to Ross’ existing head unit for audio.
And here is the final result:
If you don’t mind opening up devices and aren’t a stranger to electronics, the steps taken are actually quite simple compared to other similar projects, although of course I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone who is a complete novice. Ross does mention a bit of luck in how the Nexus 7 components were arranged and his particular dash layout made things easier, however none of this detracts from a very impressive final result. For a full run down of the project and a step by step with more pictures of everything Ross did to achieve this, head over to landoftechnology for the complete post. You can also watch this video of the final installation:
For tips on creating the custom Knight Rider style interface, you can also read Ross’ follow up post. Various apps such as Nova Launcher, Tasker, UCCW and Simple Text are required to get everything working in the same way. Of course, part of the beauty of Android is in how you can use all sorts of combinations of apps to create a UI and system that suits you.