Tag Archives | Remote Controls

BlinQ TV, a $9.99 Social Universal Remote for Your iPhone

Back, in July, I wrote about Peel, a software-and-hardware system that turns an iPhone or iPod Touch into a slick universal TV remote. It’s neat. But it costs $99.95, and involves two doohickeys–one that you plug into your router, and one that sits near your TV.

Ryz Media’s BlinQ TV has a new twist on the same basic idea–and the most striking difference is the hardware. Instead of routing commands from your iPhone over Wi-Fi into a gizmo like the Peel’s “Fruit” and then into the TV via infrared, BlinQ gives you a lollipop-shaped IR blaster that plugs into the phone’s headphone jack and lets you control a TV, set-top box, and other living-room devices with no intermediary hardware. It costs one-tenth as much as Peel: $9.99.

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How America Clicked

Nobody is ever going to list the TV remote as one of the most important inventions of all time. Maybe not even of the second half of the twentieth century. But if the remote had never been invented, life would be meaningfully different. Think about it: if we all still had to get up from our couches and trudge across the room to change the station, there’d be no such thing as channel surfing. (Then again, we’d be thinner from the calories we burned.) Dealing with more than a handful of stations would be impossibly unwieldy, too–no remote control, no 500-channel universe.

In short, the TV remote matters–and it’s it worth pausing to remember some of the most significant models to appear since 1950, plus a not-so-significant curiosity or two. (Click on the images below to see the ads, patents, and magazine pages at a much larger size.)

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Is Time Running Out for the TV Remote? Nope.

Over the weekend, the New York Times pondered whether the television remote control is on its way out, thanks to smartphone and tablet apps that can do the job instead.

Although doomsday predictions can be dangerous for any technology, I’ll gladly join the chorus of people who think the remote should be put out to pasture. But before that can happen, a lot of things need to change in the phone and TV industries, all of which will take a very long time.

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TiVo Gets QWERTY

TiVo has begun selling the $89.99 slider remote with a hidden QWERTY keyboard which it first showed off back in March when it launched its new Premiere boxes. Our friend Dave Zatz has tried one and mostly likes it. It has the signature TiVo “peanut” design, but is 25% shorter–presumably to allow for a keyboard with a width that lends itself well to thumbtyping.

The TiVo Slide uses Bluetooth to talk to all recent Tivos (the Premiere, HD, and Series 3), which means you don’t need to worry about pointing it at the DVR or whether there’s any furniture, pets, or children in the way; it comes with a USB Bluetooth adapter, which presumably helps to explain the pricetag. (The Slide costs almost a third as much as a Tivo Premiere itself–it would be nice if TiVo offered a Tivo-plus-Slide bundle at at least a modest discount.)

For as long as people have been entering alphanumeric text on TVs–which would be since home video games got high-score features, I guess–they’ve mostly been doing it via arrow keys and cumbersome on-screen keyboards. TiVo’s standard text-entry system isn’t bad, relatively speaking, but I’m always in favor of physical plastic QWERTY keys when available…


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PrimeSense: Remote Control Without the Remote Control

Was it really only three years ago that Nintendo’s Wii controller seemed mindbendingly innovative? Before long, the fact that the Wii involves a controller at all may feel a tad retro.

One of my favorite CES demos this year was in a little private room on the periphery of the show floor. PrimeSense is an Israeli chip designer that’s building a processor to enable consumer-electronics devices of all sorts to accept gestures as input. It uses a cameras/infrared sensor to spot people and figure out their movements–even subtle ones like a wave of the fingertips. And then it can use those movements to control consumer-electronics devices, games, and maybe even eventually cars.

Here’s a video the company prepared showing the basic idea:

The video doesn’t show the use of the technology that really knocked my socks off when the company showed it to me: a TV-based photo viewer that’s reminiscent of the one offered by Microsoft’s Surface tabletop computer. Except PrimeSense’s version doesn’t make you touch anything–you just move your hands around in middair to move, rotate, and resize pictures on the TV. It’s multi-touch without the touch.

It’s also the closest thing to real-world Minority Report I’ve witnessed so far:

PrimeSense isn’t new (it also previewed what it was up to at CES 2008) and doesn’t lack for competitors trying to do vaguely similar things (such as Canesta). And the example of controller-less control that’s grabbed the most attention so far is Microsoft’s Project Natal for the Xbox 360, which is supposed to show up by the 2010 holiday season. But PrimeSense is finally talking about its technology showing up in commercial projects–the first of which is a new version of CyberLink’s PowerCinema movie player for Windows which will let you use gestures to control playback.

One way or another, I look forward to the day when the only universal remotes we’ll need are our own ten fingers…


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