The New Remotes of CES

Dave Zatz —  January 9, 2009

Over these last few years we’ve innovative new methods to remotely control our television (devices) have started to crop up. Both the hardware and 10′ interface. With the driving force being the exponential increase in the number of channels and types of content we receive.

Some will be more successful than others… this is the third CES I’ve seen Hillcrest Labs exhibit their motion control solution, which predates Nintendo’s Wii controller. However, they seem to have picked up only a little traction in licensing their tech to Logitech and Kodak. Frankly, I’m not so interested in waving my arm around like Harry Potter. But there have been advances I can get behind. Like Vudu’s scrollwheel. Utilizing it probably requires more precision than, say, my mom could handle, but I find it very effective for scrolling through tons of content at high speed and it does an OK job for transport control. But, enough of this scrolling already…

Which is why Vizio’s QWERTY slider remote prototype (pics top and below) has got me fired up. You’re probably as tired as I am of “typing” in Wishlist title, YouTube search term, VOD keyword, WPA key, etc using a directional pad. So, I’m psyched to finally see mainstream manufacturer bringing a remote with full keyboard to market. It’s slated to debut with Vizio’s connected HDTV midyear.

We’ve also begun to see more remotes shipping with touchpads, which I’m not quite sold on for television control. The ZvBox remote features a full complement of keys in addition to a touchpad, as opposed to the new minimalistic DISH 922 DVR remote. To use this DISH solution, you’d drag your finger on the front and select by pulling a trigger on the back. Most of us probably don’t have the fine control to “point” with our thumb, so this compact remote actually requires two hands. Changing channels like this is way more cumbersome than hitting 2-5-2 without looking down, as I do when I flip to ESPN HD. I’m surprised to see them push the envelop so far, as the mainstream is going to have a hard time getting behind this. Should they simply add numeric and directional keys prior to launch, the touchpad becomes an option to use… when appropriate.

Speaking of touch sensitivity and two-handed control, I caught Logitech’s latest Harmony smart remote. The 1100 slab is a minor refresh of the 1000, and not something I’d ever use. I prefer the traditional remote form factor of the 880/890/One line, and there’s no word on when/if they’ll be seeing updates.

6 responses to The New Remotes of CES

  1. I’m a fan of the wii-mote concept myself. I think once we see them in enough homes, that we’ll see a TV version of the net start to come out. Instead of relying on text, it will all be based on what you could do with a mouse. Eventually, I’d like to be able to access content no matter where it comes from without having to get off the couch.

  2. That Dish remote looks like something I’d hate to use; I already use an expensive and complex Harmony. Can I opt out of that Dish remote for a savings off the cost of the receiver?!?

    Maybe it’ll just be an optional upgrade. Can you imagine explaining that thing to Grandma?

  3. I believe that remote is RF. Hopefully the DVR hardware will also work with IR and the traditional DISH remotes or universals like your Harmony.

  4. Dave, the harmony one is pretty much a replacement for the Harmony 880. I upgraded to this from the 880 in the middle of last year. The control layout is a 100% better than on the 880. Still nothing really dramatic or unique about it outside of the typical harmony features.

  5. Doh, I knew that. Thanks for the correct/addition, just fixed the post. Over tired and blogging at 5AM probably means a higher percentage of errors. Regarding the One, one of the complaints amongst the geekier crowd is that it doesn’t have the z-wave capabilities of the 890. Not sure how much sales that drives (or prevents) though. At one point, I owned two 880s but I’ve really simplified my setup lately. When I’m back on IR controlled lighting, I’ll revisit. And I always wanted remote control curtains/blinds as well. ;)

  6. That Vizio remote looks crazy cool. Full on keyboard nice.