Archives For Remotes

Perhaps I missed it launch week. Or perhaps it’s an even newer arrival. Regardless, I discovered and unboxed the new TiVo Glo Remote, Premiere Edition, at the Best Buy Friday night… as they conducted some light iPad remodeling.

It appears that the jump in physical quality from standard “peanut” to Glo is much less dramatic in the Series 4 line than what we saw with the Series2 and TiVo HD. Partially due to what I suspect is a cost cutting, profit boosting measure of sharing (lesser) parts. The Glo does provide learning capabilities and backlit keys (get it, Glo?) over the stock Premiere remote, along with a slightly different paint job (along the bezel). But it doesn’t feel quite as solid as the original Glo, one of my all time favorite remotes. Several of which we have sprinkled about our home. Perhaps adding to the slightly different feeling is a reduction in weight. Whereas the original Glo housed 4 AAA batteries, the Premiere Glo is powered by just a pair of AAs.

The new Glo remote comes bundled with the Premiere XL or can be purchased separately for $50 at Best Buy or TiVo.com. But I’ll be hanging onto my originals for the time being.

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Feeling a bit down that your brand spankin’ new TiVo Premiere ($300) doesn’t ship with the Bluetooth qwerty remote? (Of unknown price and delivery date.) Well, it appears that version 14 of the TiVo OS, as found on the Premiere, has all sorts of juicy keyboard hooks built right in.

First, IR-over-IP keyboard mapping has been discovered by TiVo Community Forum member William McBrine. Building upon earlier forum work that led to iPhone telnet control, and followed by more polished TiVo network remote controls. No need to wait for a dedicated QWERTY remote, when there’s (now) bound to be updated iPhone and Android apps with similar functionality at a lower cost in the near future.

Just as interesting, it appears any ‘ole USB keyboard can be connected to the TiVo Premiere. Making short work of Season Passes and Wish Lists. In fact, I imagine most standard IR or RF HID-compliant wireless keyboards also would do the trick. As I demonstrate above using the compact and svelte Microsoft Arc Keyboard ($70).

Although I’m still tracking down backspace and space bar mappings, here are some of the keyboard shortcuts McBrine has uncovered thus far:

Cursor keys = arrows
Enter = Select
Esc = Clear
F1 = TiVo
F2 = LiveTV
F3 = Guide
F5 = Thumbs Up
F6 = Thumbs Down
F7 = Channel Up
F8 = Channel Down
F9 = Record (?)
F10 = Info

Is a Harmony remote without a display really a Harmony? We’re about to find out. Like others in Logtech’s lineup, the new Harmony 300 can be programmed to control multiple devices, via a USB connection and their cloud-based device database of a bazillion components (some recorded better than others). However, unlike prior Harmonys, the 300 seems more ‘universal remote’ than macro-based event control… Given the missing LCD and 4 component limitation. Which is probably OK as they’re clearly shooting for the mass market with a $50 price point. (And battery life should be very good.) However, if you’re on a tight budget yet want a “real” Harmony remote experience (with color LCD), I’d spring for the 650 which recently launched at $100. Give it just a few more weeks and I bet we’ll see it on Amazon or Dell for $80.

The iTunes App Store is filled with applications that let you control desktop media players from your phone. There are remotes for iTunes, Boxee, VLC, and other apps. And then there’s RemoteX — a single application that functions as a remote for all of those apps, plus 9 more.

RemoteX is compatible with Windows XP, Vista, or Windows 7, and requires you to download a small server utility on your PC. Then you fire up the RemoteX app on your iPhone or iPod touch, connect to your desktop (which should automatically show up in the list of servers), and choose the media player you want to handle. The remote control functions change for each app. For instance, the VLC controller has FullScreen and DVD butons, while the Winamp controller has an Equalizer and Playlist button.

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As the bastard child of EchoStar, Sling Media no longer enjoys the same sort of blog love seen in years past. So while many learned that the 3G iPhone Slingbox client ($30) was finally approved over the weekend, you may have missed a few other nuggets of Sling goodness…

Bell TV is the first licensee, beyond the obvious DISH Network, to implement Sling Guide services. Re-branded as the more clear “Remote PVR” for Canada, Bell customers now receive:

  • Personalized and integrated view of everything there is to schedule or record in a simple visual interface on a PC, Mac or compatible smartphone.
  • Ability to search, browse and schedule new programming from anywhere you have an Internet connection.
  • One click recording.
  • Full control of the DVR and television using a computer or mobile phone.

But customers worldwide can appreciate Sling’s continued its march into the browser. Not only have they started to de-emphasize (hide) computer SlingPlayer software in favor of their evolving web player(s), they’ve unveiled a web-based remote control learning widget. (PC-only, for now.) Anyone who’s struggled with IR control of their STB will appreciate this tool to customize/create a virtual remote control by mapping IR signals from unsupported hardware:

Welcome to the Slingbox Remote Control Manager. We’ll help you set up your remote control, change it, or create a new custom one.

Back when I was employed by Sling, staying current with remotes was one of the causes I championed. And why not? The hardware supported it. I’m only bummed it’s taken Sling this long to get to a beta release.

logitech-touch-mouse.mobile-air

Logitech’s new Touch Mouse iPhone app (above left) is a cute bit of marketing, but power users can do better. Touch Mouse, in conjunction with PC or Mac server software, allows you to use your iPhone as a remote touchpad (à la GlideTV) and keyboard. For basic control and a cost of zero dollars, it’ll probably serve many well – as long as you keep your expectations for future development in check.

But, as I learned over at A VC early last month, there’s at least one super-powered iPhone alternative available for a mere $2. Mobile Air Mouse Pro (above right) is a remote touchpad and keyboard… and so much more. The video below steps through many of Mobile Air Mouse Pro’s various features. Combined with a Ceton-infused HTPC, I can’t help but imagine the possibilities.

hillcrest-dolphin

My last stop on the CES marathon last week was with Hillcrest Labs. Although, they’re a DC metro company, the only place I ever seem to see them is in Vegas. In fact, Josh Goldman, former CEO of former Akimbo, first introduced me to Hillcrest Labs back at CES 2007 when I told him I hadn’t yet seen anything cool at the show. Back then, Hillcrest had a single prototype product in The Loop — a motion-controlled remote, demo-ed with a custom onscreen UI. At the time, it seemed the plan was to partner with set-top box manufacturers to distribute The Loop. And other than the occasional tech demo, things appeared quiet for some time. Until Hillcrest’s Freespace technology, consisting of MEMS chips and an accelerometer, started showing up in other devices like Logitech’s MX Air Mouse and the remote for Kodak’s DMA.

And things have really started picking up for Hillcrest in the last few months. First off, they sued Nintendo for Wiimote patent infringement. And while Hillcrest’s rep couldn’t discuss the matter, some Googling has turned up a probable Nintendo licensing deal that settled the matter in August. Just as noteworthy, perhaps more, Hillcrest has licensed their Freespace technology to Universal Electronics, Inc (UEI) – the (largest?) manufacturer and reseller of remote controls. The fruits of that labor are now available (to set-top partners) in the form of the nicely contoured, and more traditional-shaped, Dolphin remote (pictured above) which transmits signals via RF. However, at CES, the two companies have also announced support for Bluetooth.

hillcrest-loop

At the show, I played with both the Dolphin and The Loop — which is now available at retail for $99 and currently compares most favorably in function and price with GlideTV ($150) as a means of HTPC remote control. I still find The Loop’s design a bit awkward, but it’s qite unique and the scroll wheel complements the motion control very nicely. However, the Dolphin’s traditional remote form feels more natural. Both products are easier and more precise to control than the Wiimote, given Freespace’s “adaptive tremor cancellation” technology.