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We need a TV remote control revolution

Remote control

I’m not excited by the recent arrival of 3D TV. Instead, I’ve been turned on by the advent of internet tellies. But unless manufacturers can develop decent remote controls for them, this tech could be left on standby.

Internet TVs (or Smart TVs as Samsung and LG dub them) aren’t about web-browsing – although some models do feature full web browsers. They’re about accessing web-based video programming.

And we’re not just talking about five minute YouTube clips. It’s more likely that you’ll be enjoying full 30 minute programmes from services like iPlayer and 4oD, or if you’re willing to pay, you’ll have access to your LOVEFiLM and Blockbuster subscriptions.

Web tellies promise huge benefits, but they’ll only catch on if the services offered are accessible and easy to use. At present that just isn’t the case.

TV remote controls need a face lift

Remote controls have evolved over the years, but they’re going to have to go through some pretty drastic changes if they’re to keep apace.

For a start, we’re not used to cursors on TVs. We’re familiar with moving them around with a mouse on our computers, but we’ve always used physical buttons on our TV remotes to select particular features. This will have to change, as illustrated by LG’s attempted Magic Pointer remote control.

But there’s another issue – the need to input text. If we’re going to browse the web on our TVs, then we’ll want to enter addresses, or type in terms to help us search through all the on-demand content.

On-screen keyboards or alphanumeric buttons on remotes don’t quite do it for me, and the oversized keyboard Sony created for its Google TV was also a little off the mark.

Samsung offered a touchscreen remote control that could also be used as a second TV (you can take EastEnders to the toilet with you). But while it appealed to me, I think most would be put off by the hefty instruction manual that came bundled with it.

iPhone apps point to future of remotes

An iPhone app (would you believe) from LG seems to offer one of the best solutions. This smartphone TV remote utilises three screens. The first lets you control volume and channel skipping, the second allows you to move a cursor around and the third looks a little like a regular remote.

The app doesn’t get around the problem of entering free text as well as I’d like, but it’s definitely the best smartphone remote control app I’ve seen so far.

So is this the inevitable and required future of TV remotes – touchscreen apps on smartphones? There undeniably needs to be some sort of remote control revolution, but something tells me that most people won’t want to give up physical buttons anytime soon.

Comments
Guest
Simon says:
12 April 2011

Perhaps they ought to look at designing a remote along the lines of a gaming controller. The xbox has an addional clip in chatpad. That gives you cursor mobility with text and numbers. They could then add in the coloured buttons etc. Gaming devices are made to work with the hands, remotes never were very ergonomic and I agree they are now very out of date

Guest

We were hoping we would be able to talk to the TV and it would do exactrly what we wanted – technologically not out of the question, surely.

Guest

Hi John Ward, I’ve seen a prototype of a TV that can be controlled by voice commands. The excuse the manufacturer gave for it not being ready for launch is the inaccuracy that comes about due to regional accents. I was told that it was easier to produce for certain countries, but that the UK was very regional when it comes to accent variations.

I must say, however, that the voice recognition on Google Translate seems to work well. But then maybe that’s because I speak with a home counties accent. And now for a little shameless self promotion http://blogs.which.co.uk/technology/app-review/google-translate-video-review/