Friday, June 5, 2009

future TV remote control

This is the third post on a series discussing broadband penetration. If you are interested, please check out the first and second posts on this series as well. Previously, I discussed using TV as a means for connecting to the Internet. Now the question is how would you like to interact with the TV. Can we add more buttons to the TV remote control? Or do we need more innovative designs for the user interface?

The first remote control came to the market in 1957. It utilized ultrasound technology, had four buttons and was called space command. One of the buttons was for turning the TV on and off. Two other buttons were for changing channel. The fourth button is described in the 1957 commercial of the device as “the one that shuts off the sound of long, annoying commercials while the picture remains on the screen”. It took more than 20 years for the industry to come up with an infrared version of the device that did not get on your dogs nerves.

Today you can find a variety of universal remote controls with sleek and ergonomic designs. They have color displays and soft keys. Some models work with AA batteries but more sophisticated models are rechargeable. One of the most advanced universal remote controls commercially available today is the Logitec’s Harmony 1100 which was exhibited in 2009 Consumer Electronic Show (CES). It has a touch screen and the capability to control 15 devices at a time! It can be programmed to work even as the remote control for you xBox. It costs more than $500, yet it is just another remote control. If the future Internet TV is going to be something between today’s TV and a PC, it needs a controller that allows higher level of interactivity.

There are a variety of paths for the evolution of TV remote controls. The science fiction solution, in my opinion, is what Hitachi has demonstrated in the 2009 CES: just move your hand in the air to control the TV! If this is hard to believe remember how Nintendo Wii has become popular with its unique interface. Remote control manufacturers can also integrate more familiar ways of interacting with the applications running on the TV. Remember Atari? Your remote control can have a miniature joystick to navigate you through your TV screen. Some of you may be happy with my desired miniature joystick, but don’t you wish that the market will become competitive enough to nourish a variety of innovative designs?

edited by Behnam Analui


  1. Well, all I can say is you will be amazed starting 12-18 months from now... the hand gestures are not really futuristic, just not user friendly... there are alternatives in test, but the evolution will be more of a revolution!

  2. Do you have any news about any company working in this area?