Home Analysis The evolution of the remote control

The evolution of the remote control

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Menno Koopmans, Senior VP Subscription Broadcasting, Universal Electronics
 
The world of consumer electronics is perhaps one of the best examples of an industry that is constantly changing and evolving. In an age where the trend for miniaturisation is increasing, our gadgets keep getting smaller, our televisions keep getting thinner, and our laptops keep getting lighter.
 
These innovations are driven by consumers. We convince ourselves that we really need newer versions of gadgets we already have. Manufacturers need to meet the demand for innovation with the supply of smaller, thinner, lighter and more convenient products.
 
But in the face of all these shrinking electronics, one thing remains constant; the humble TV remote. They might have become more ergonomic and streamlined over the years, but they certainly haven’t been getting smaller. If anything, to cope with the additional functionality that our televisions and broadcasters can now provide, remotes are getting bigger, with more buttons than ever before!
 
As well as having bigger TV remotes, we now have even more of them. The average Briton now owns 10 electronic devices, many of which are found in the living room and have a remote control. But despite remotes being bigger we still manage to keep losing them. The old clichés of looking down the back of the sofa still ring true it seems, as research suggests that the average person will spend two weeks of their life looking for lost remote controls.
 
Ensuring that the remote control is compatible and able to be used universally with as little effort as possible are fundamental aspects of new remote control designs. The remote control is often an extension of the manufacturer’s brand; devices are typically stored out of sight in cabinets leaving the remote as the sole, visible instance of the product.
 
The conclusion here is that consumers want TV remotes that are modern, functional, easy to use and most importantly, easy to find. Instead of adding more and more buttons, or choices to the remote, a user interface optimised for individual use is what’s needed to meet the increased demand for user-friendliness and intuitive control. Manufacturers are producing TV remotes that meet this brief, and can control every device in the house. Because it’s harder to lose one remote then it is to lose five, right?
 
Remote controls typically control one aspect of a living room ecosystem that can be made up of several components – a television, DVD / Blu-ray player, set top box, and games console. ‘All-in-one’ remotes are ideal for 21st Century consumers because each of these devices can be controlled from one point, without the user having to move or look for multiple other remotes.
 
Newer remote controls are using additional functionality, building on the push-button options. Controlling content using voice, motion and touch are, now, all options. Voice, for example, is playing a greater role in personalising the content delivery experience by enabling an entertainment system to identify the user and suggest appropriate content based on gender, viewing history, and age. The latter has excellent potential for enforcing parental controls for younger viewers.
 
Consumers increasingly want to control as much of their lives as possible, from their phone. Conveniently tucked away in their pocket most of the time, modern consumers can now control their work, finances and everything in between, from their smartphone. Mobile apps can be used to control your heating, turn the lights on and off, and of course, control your other electronic devices.
 
TV remote manufacturers have responded to consumer demand, and developed a range of applications that allow users to control their televisions and other media, using their smartphones and tablets. This trend goes some way to alleviating past issues that consumers had with traditional TV remotes. They’re intuitive, customisable, and easy to use. They feature advanced functionality including macros to turn devices on, off, and switch inputs at the push of a single button.
 
Future developments will likely see even greater, easier levels of control for consumers, with users able to change channels with just a vocal command or flick of the wrist. But perhaps the biggest benefit of all that smartphone technology brings to TV remotes, is that it’s going to be even harder to lose it down the back of the sofa.
 


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