Archives For Remotes

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.

Neuros LINK Unboxed & Setup

Dave Zatz —  December 3, 2008

A loaner Neuros LINK ($300) arrived earlier today, and for once I forgive the UPS guy for not hiking up four flights of stairs to make a delivery… The unit is essentially a full-on computer, with the total kit weighing in at about 15lbs.

During the early phase of alpha testing, the Ubuntu Linux system is booting off a 4GB USB stick. The primary function of Neuros LINK is to organize and access web-based video, such as Hulu or Amazon OnDemand. And similar to ZvBox, the main launchpad is essentially a Firefox web browser. While Zv provides a customized build, the Neuros LINK interface is the standard browser running in full screen mode displaying Neuros’ customized site/experience. I haven’t found or tested the browsing functionality yet, but the automatic word complete suggestions via the web search feature is quite nice. I had no problems locating Hulu content and playing it back full screen – both audio and video passed fine from PC to HDTV over HDMI. When not streaming from the web, Linux media center software MythTV is also installed (!) for local and network media playback. I’ll be looking at this unit for a few weeks and providing feedback to the Neuros team, so it’s safe to assume I’ll have more to blog as well. Stay tuned.

11 pictures follow: Continue Reading…

If you delve very far into the world of home theater PCs (HTPCs), one of the first things you’ll want to tackle is freeing yourself from the keyboard and mouse. To really transform your HTPC into more of a set-top box and less of a computer, you’ll obviously want to control it with a remote – aka the 10-foot interface.

The most popular and arguably best way to do this is with a simple little device called the USB-UIRT (Universal Infrared Receiver Transmitter). This IR receiver/transmitter may not be the most exciting part of the HTPC, but it certainly is one of the more important components. In plain speak, the simple-looking device lets you control your PC with a remote control and, in turn, has your PC control a cable or satellite set-top box. The USB-UIRT connects to your computer through the USB port and allows your computer to receive IR signals from any IR remote. I’ve used it with my old TV remote, a Hauppauge remote, the SageTV HD Extender remote, a URC MX-500 remote, Haromy 880 remote and many others. You should be able to use about any remote control that emits IR – which would be most of them. Another important feature of the USB-UIRT is that it can send (blast) IR signals to control most of your AV equipment such as a DVD player, receiver, etc. You can also program the USB-UIRT to handle “discreet codes” (power on only, or power off only, for instance) that aren’t found on a standard remote control.

The USB-UIRT works out of the box with many programs including SageTV’s HTPC software. Even if the program you want to remote control doesn’t natively support USB-UIRT, you can use Eventghost, LMGestion, Girder, Intelliremote and a whole host of other software apps to enable control of various IR devices.

Read the rest of this entry at Brent Evans Geek Tonic to win a USB-UIRT »

Woot’s offering the TiVo HD (refurb) for a low $165, shipped. Like all Woot deals, you’ll need to act fast. As in today. And before they sell out. I believe this is the lowest we’ve seen THD and it’s a great price to get in on. With the money you save, I suggest picking up the very nice TiVo Glo remote to replace the traditional TiVo controller – unless you’re using a Harmony or similar.

(via Gizmo Lovers)

Gizmodo has gone back in time to document the evolution of the TiVo peanut remote, including a few unique images – such as molds and prototypes.

What caught my eye were images of a remote stand (where can I get a couple?) and discussions of a more text-entry friendly remote. For some time, I thought an Xbox-style Chatpad would be the way to go. However the Vudu (scrollwheel), Wii (motion sensor), and FiOS TV DVR (triple tap) have proven there are more efficient ways to “type” without squeezing a full-on keyboard into the remote.

And while we’re talking TiVo remotes, over the years my two favorites have been the Toshiba SD-H400 (other than ‘zero’ key placement) and the Series3/Glo (below). Additional info on Series3/Glo remote improvements over the Series2/THD can be found here.

PC Mag has spoken: the ESPN Ultimate Remote ain’t all that. Mari was feeling good after a brief device intro at The Cable Show, but my pal (and fellow IU alumn) PJ tested the WiFi remote in an AV environment and has graced it with only 2 out of 5 stars:

The problem is, despite its $300 price tag, it is not particularly simple to set up or use, and it doesn’t execute any of its fancy Web tricks gracefully.

Though PJ prefers the Harmony One, he’s hopeful that the Windows CE-based Ultimate Remote will see some software improvements that justify the steep price of entry.

Looking for an alternative to the Harmony? It now exists. As I was leaving the floor at the Cable Show, I got the lowdown on the new Ultimate Remote from tvCompass. In a quick demo I was particularly impressed with the TV Guide EPG rendering – not an easy thing to get right on such a small screen. Even more important, however: the remote is WiFi-enabled, meaning plenty of extras like messaging and content applications. It’s launching with ESPN and associated sports content, but the partnership opportunities are really limitless. Operators are apparently looking at the tvCompass product, too. You can pre-order the ESPN version on Amazon. Hefty price tag at $299.99, but I bet there’ll be quite a few willing to shell it out.