iPhone/iPod Touch Remote Apps - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 222 Old 11-14-2008, 11:23 AM - Thread Starter
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I think it's time to have a dedicated thread on this subject.

First some news I haven't seen here: there is a Remote app for MythTV called MyMote. Don't use MythTV, so I have no comment, but it's free so any Myth user out there should try it.

There is also a Front Row/DVD Player app. called DVDmote. I will try it next week and report. Screenshot looks ugly.

Others -- should search through iTunes over the weekend. All in all though, I was expecting, much, much more at this stage of the game. I still think it will happen, for sure in the next 6 to 12 months if not sooner, but this is what is missing:

-- Any kind of universal A/V component remote using a WiFi to IR repeater (this, done right, is the Holly Grail, as the current universal remotes out there are absurdly non-user friendly to program and expensive). This IMO is the kind of App the iPhone was made for.

-- Native app for Remote Buddy (The blog on iospirit.com says that they are working on it).

-- EyeTV remote from Elgato (they too are supposedly working on it).

-- Apple's remote upgraded to control Front Row, the Apple DVD Player and AppleTV.
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post #2 of 222 Old 11-15-2008, 02:09 PM
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I use "Remote" to navigate and control iTunes on my HTPC and pretty happy with it.
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post #3 of 222 Old 11-15-2008, 03:45 PM
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They offer an app for the Sonos music players. Just search for it. It's free.
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post #4 of 222 Old 11-16-2008, 10:38 AM
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I would like see me more Remote apps out there too. I for one would love to see a wireless to IR converter box or software app, something as I too would like to be able to control ALL of my house functions with my Iphone, as well as the HTPC.
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post #5 of 222 Old 11-20-2008, 03:00 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by beowulf1877 View Post

...I for one would love to see a wireless to IR converter box or software app, something as I too would like to be able to control ALL of my house functions with my Iphone, as well as the HTPC.

http://www.smarthome.com
SmartHome manufactures and sells a new generation of some 30 Insteon SmartLinc components to remotely control whole house lighting and appliances. These products can be installed during or after construction and include Access Points to couple 900MHz RF devices with powerline devices, a WiFi/Ethernet network link, and of course, wireless outlets and boxes, dimmers, switches and remotes. Such a system can be expensive, and we've only added a few components for appliances, lights, switches and dimmers in a couple of rooms, an HVAC thermostat control and four wireless-controlled light fixtures on two exterior walls that we couldn't get switch wires to. I'll be finishing up the installation over the next month or two (as I get time...). We're working with a professional electrician to do in-wall installations to code, since I don't have any electrical experience myself...

The Insteon components can be set up and/or controlled by any phone system with .html browser and Web access -- the iPhone and iPod Touch with WiFi are perfect for this technology. SmartHome even sells the iPod Touch in some starter kits.

SmartHome's new .html-based iPhone control software is in the version 1x stage of development though. Consequently, full functionality for a given device may not be complete. For instance, with an Insteon-compatible thermostat that has a WiFi receiver, you can use the iPhone to remotely turn the heat or AC off and on, but you can't easily set or change temperatures just yet. Timers have only one on and off time. The on/off brightness ramps work pretty well though for dimmer wall switches and remotes).

http://www.perceptiveautomation.com/indigo/index.html
Perceptive Automation sells Indigo, a home automation software product. It's a more full-featured, Mac-based control system that also is compatible with SmartHome's Insteon devices. However, an iPhone/iPod Touch version of the Indigo interface is not yet available.

This stuff all shows great promise. Over time, phone-based controllers will render keypads as obsolete. And of course, these products pair well with the iPhone and Apple's Remote software for music and soon (I'm sure), home theater.

Geo
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post #6 of 222 Old 11-20-2008, 04:12 PM - Thread Starter
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As Geo points out, home automation is ahead of A/V (HT) equipment support. I would have thought that A/V is a bigger market, but maybe the home automation people have greater programming skills.

Judging by the unmitigated horror that is the user interface of my new Denon AVR 2809, I suspect that the A/V manufacturers themselves couldn't produce a decent iPhone app if their lives depended on it.

I wish that we could get some talented iPhone developers interested in doing this instead of the 87th Twitter client...
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post #7 of 222 Old 03-12-2009, 02:43 PM - Thread Starter
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UIremote -- universal IR remote for the iPhone/iPod Touch
Still vaporware, but for once they actually seem to be working on exactly what we need instead of some absurdly complicated piece of junk.

In other news, iPhone OS 3.0 will be announced on Tuesday March 17th, at the first Apple media event since Macworld. Will there be any new HT friendly features? We will know more soon.

Edit: I should also mention that the Apple Remote app just got updated with iTunes DJ features, which is no doubt cool and fun, but mainly tangential to our HT needs.
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post #8 of 222 Old 03-13-2009, 07:09 AM
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This is not quite the optimal solution, but I have been playing with AirMote for the iPhone. AirMote connects via VNC and thus can emulate any keystroke. It comes with some pre-configured remote screens, but you can also build your own.

I have also been playing with FastScript for OS X which runs applescripts on keystrokes commands. Thus I have been writing my own applescripts and creating my own remote screens on AirMote and can have them do anything on my mac that I can applescript.
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post #9 of 222 Old 03-17-2009, 01:05 PM - Thread Starter
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So clearly the new device API in the iPhone 3.0 software should greatly facilitate the advent of IR based universal remotes. Hopefully there will be a flood of them by the end of 2009. The current installed user base is 30 million iPhones/iPod Touches combined -- nothing to sneeze at.
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post #10 of 222 Old 03-17-2009, 04:50 PM
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Don't hardware devices need to attach to the bottom port of the iPhone / Touch? That's going to make things a little awkward... Either the user will have to hold the device upside-down or something will have to snap onto the device with the IR transmitter pointing to the top.
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post #11 of 222 Old 03-17-2009, 05:01 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dbfreq View Post

Don't hardware devices need to attach to the bottom port of the iPhone / Touch? That's going to make things a little awkward... Either the user will have to hold the device upside-down or something will have to snap onto the device with the IR transmitter pointing to the top.

The UI Remote gizmo attaches to the earphone jack; however obviously devices that interact with the API will need the USB port. Being upside down -- well so what, we are talking about a screen that looks the same whether it is upside down or not. Plenty of apps work fine upside down with the accelerometer telling them which way is up.
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post #12 of 222 Old 03-18-2009, 05:48 AM
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There is another, maybe better, way of doing this. Instead of putting a dongle on the iPhone, you install a home-automation system and then use the iPhone to talk to that system. Here's one example of such a system.

This system is better because IR is line of sight, but home-automation systems can be controlled from anywhere. These systems are not vapour-ware, but they are also probably not cheap.
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post #13 of 222 Old 03-18-2009, 06:05 AM - Thread Starter
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Further -- I know about the home automation systems, but I think most of us here are just looking for a Universal home theater remote.

To me it will have two characteristics -- the ease of use of the best iPhone Apps which dedicated universal remotes such as a Pronto are said to not have, and the full power of a dedicated universal remote, in terms of being able to control a wide range of AVRs, DVD players, etc. as well as all the Mac based HT programs. Note that it can be different apps on the iPhone doing it -- I don't mind the idea of switching. And lastly it will be cheaper then something like a Pronto (not to mention a home automation system).
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post #14 of 222 Old 03-18-2009, 06:56 AM
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I understand. I only posted it in response to the last few messages about the UI Remote. Nevertheless, I can imagine a remote that can turn lights on and off in the ht and possibly turn other appliances on and off. Sometimes when I watch films with my family, for example, someone suggests a tea intermission. With such a remote and home-automation system, I could turn on the tea machine while the film was still playing, which would be much more efficient. I agree that it's not for everybody though.
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post #15 of 222 Old 03-18-2009, 07:16 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Further View Post

I understand. I only posted it in response to the last few messages about the UI Remote. Nevertheless, I can imagine a remote that can turn lights on and off in the ht and possibly turn other appliances on and off. Sometimes when I watch films with my family, for example, someone suggests a tea intermission. With such a remote and home-automation system, I could turn on the tea machine while the film was still playing, which would be much more efficient. I agree that it's not for everybody though.

count me in for that... fire up the coffeemaker lying in bed... etc. i can think of boatloads of things i'd like to be able to control...

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post #16 of 222 Old 03-18-2009, 07:04 PM
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Crestron released the first version of their iPhone app today. From what I've been reading, it's still got some "issues", some of which are fairly serious. In a couple of months, though, it should be a very robust (though not cheap) alternative.

I applaud Crestron for seeing the writing on the wall and going with the flow rather than continuing to fight it. I think they realize that they're not going to be able to continue to sell touchpanels that are 5x more expensive than netbooks or even the iPhone (and have lower resolutions and color depths) forever. In the past 12 months, they've released an SDK for Flash and now the iPhone, opening up the possibilities for using non-Creston devices to control a Crestron system, despite the damage these SDKs will undoubtedly due to their profit margins.
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post #17 of 222 Old 03-19-2009, 04:16 AM
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The best IR solution for the iPhone right now is the Global Cache. It is an network enabled IR blaster/receiver that also has RS-232 port(s) and triggers. They start at $150 though and since they are not Wifi enabled, you're going to either need a bridge behind your TV or a network drop.

I've used a GC-100 for years and have to say it is a rock solid piece of hardware. Of course no one has yet to write software for the iPhone to control this yet, but it has an open API which consists of opening a TCP socket to the device and sending IR codes.

The most promising project I've seen in this area to date is from the same person who is behind JBoss -- and some say he's the father of professional FOSS. Check it out when you get a chance.
http://openremote.org/display/HOME/OpenRemote

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post #18 of 222 Old 03-19-2009, 06:13 AM - Thread Starter
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I looked at Creston's website. My eyes glazed over.

If you already use Creston, this is no doubt an amazing boon. But trying to find out what you need, and whether they support your A/V equipment, good luck.

I'm figuring people call them, and Creston automates your home for you, or is this a do it yourself proposition?

Either way, it it the antitheses of the simplicity the iPhone promises. Same for Global Cache.

I don't need a more complicated existence -- I'd rather juggle five remotes then deal with this mess. What I do want is one remote to replace them: an easier to use and better designed, cheaper equivalent to the Pronto.

Yes, if I was building my suburban castle, I'd want home automation, and I realize that setting it up doesn't necessarily lend itself to simplicity. But for someone who just wants their A/V devices & HTPC controlled, I am still waiting. None of the existing products make your life simpler instead of more complicated, when you consider setup (and further use too -- I looked at some of the Creston's Denon control screens -- mama mia! they've got to be kidding me -- they are ready for John Gruber's interface of the week awards (which he gives for amazingly poor UI).

I don't know if I am expressing myself well, but to me the iPhone is made to be a SIMPLE, beautifully designed universal remote. And no one out there has touched it.

If anyone wants to see what I mean by well designed iPhone App look at Big StopWatch (it's free, just get it). I want Yuki Yasoshima designing my universal remote. Kiss is the word: Keep it simple, stupid.
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post #19 of 222 Old 03-19-2009, 06:53 AM
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CommandFusion has had a remote app capable of controlling any TCP or UDP device for a while now - including the GlobalCache units. Checkout the video on their home page. The app name is CF iViewer
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post #20 of 222 Old 03-19-2009, 11:06 AM - Thread Starter
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Article on smartphone based remotes from today's Times They mention UI Remote (will be released "this year") and offer up a screenshot of bad, bad UI...
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post #21 of 222 Old 03-19-2009, 08:55 PM
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I think that a Universal Remote application that really does what we're looking for isn't far off.

With the iPhone 3.0 APIs that are coming out to developers now, it opens a ton of opportunities to companies. The one the stuck out the most in my mind was accessories that are controllable with the iPhone directly.

Logitech is releasing the answer to the PS3 universal control problem. I can see on the horizon an IR blaster similar to what you get with the Harmony 890 RF remote. A quick, easy way to control all your components, using Logitech's infrastructure that's already in place.

Heck, you could even make changes while you're "in-app" and update your "iPhone Harmony Remote" wirelessly.

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post #22 of 222 Old 03-20-2009, 11:25 AM
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I've been using Air Mouse (from the iTunes Store) for about a week. It's not too bad for controlling my mini HTPC. It connects to the mini via WiFi and is pretty responsive.
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post #23 of 222 Old 03-20-2009, 04:33 PM
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I am a Crestron programmer, I've done AMX, and I've also written code for my iPod Touch (and Macs) to talk to an Aurora Multimedia WACI, an AMX controller and a Crestron controller. The program you're after, Ted, is difficult to deliver. It's not that the programming is difficult, but, in order to make it easy to program for anyone who downloads the app from the App Store, there needs to be a reasonably complete database of IR codes. There are literally tens of thousands of codesets floating around -- Sony alone has thousands. AFAIK, there is no public database of IR codesets. Remote Central has a good repository, but I don't believe it's in a form that could be easily packaged-up and added to an app. There are, of course, IR code databases, but these are proprietary, owned by remote control manufacturers, like Pronto, RTI, Crestron, etc. Many of these are also woefully incomplete, despite what professionals pay to access them.

I also doubt that you would ever see bi-directional control (ie, get feedback from an RS-232 or ethernet-controlled device) in an easily-programmable, downloadable iPhone app. These are significant hurdles, given the number of devices and protocols out there. That is unless a universal standard emerges and manufacturers actually adopt it that allows devices to join a network, tell other devices what they are, what they can do and how to communicate with them. This is certainly feasible from a technological perspective right now, but it's not in the manufacturer's interests to do so (if you doubt this, do some digging into CEC and how manufacturers are handling the basic vs. advanced features in order to coerce consumers into buying their receiver + their DVD player + their TV, rather than mixing and matching different brands).

The iPhone 3.0 APIs are very cool, but I don't think they're going to make it any easier to create the IR codeset database that would be needed to create the kind of program I think you've been discussing.
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post #24 of 222 Old 03-21-2009, 05:15 AM
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In order to have complete control of your ht with a remote, IR will be needed. Perhaps that will change in the future, but now, as I understand, it is still necessary.

There are two possibilities for IR: on the iPhone/Touch or somewhere else in the system. As dbfreq pointed out, there is no standard for IR codes. There are two solutions to this: a learning remote or a way to download the codes for your specific device. BTW, have the UI Remote people said how their device will get codes?

Since IR is line of sight, for some people an external device might be better, and for others, not necessary.

Here's an announcement of an interesting external device (connects to a router) that will have device-specific codes to download and install on your iPhone or Touch.

As dbfreq points out, having a nice simple solution is not as easy as it may seem.
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post #25 of 222 Old 03-21-2009, 10:37 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Further View Post

BTW, have the UI Remote people said how their device will get codes?
...
As dbfreq points out, having a nice simple solution is not as easy as it may seem.

The UI Remote demo video implied learning remote capability.

dfreq's post is very informative and deserves a detailed answer.

Quote:
Originally Posted by dbfreq View Post

...It's not that the programming is difficult, but, in order to make it easy to program for anyone who downloads the app from the App Store, there needs to be a reasonably complete database of IR codes. There are literally tens of thousands of codesets floating around -- Sony alone has thousands. AFAIK, there is no public database of IR codesets. Remote Central has a good repository, but I don't believe it's in a form that could be easily packaged-up and added to an app. There are, of course, IR code databases, but these are proprietary, owned by remote control manufacturers, like Pronto, RTI, Crestron, etc. Many of these are also woefully incomplete, despite what professionals pay to access them.

I also doubt that you would ever see bi-directional control (ie, get feedback from an RS-232 or ethernet-controlled device) in an easily-programmable, downloadable iPhone app. These are significant hurdles, given the number of devices and protocols out there. That is unless a universal standard emerges and manufacturers actually adopt it that allows devices to join a network, tell other devices what they are, what they can do and how to communicate with them. This is certainly feasible from a technological perspective right now, but it's not in the manufacturer's interests to do so (if you doubt this, do some digging into CEC and how manufacturers are handling the basic vs. advanced features in order to coerce consumers into buying their receiver + their DVD player + their TV, rather than mixing and matching different brands).

The iPhone 3.0 APIs are very cool, but I don't think they're going to make it any easier to create the IR codeset database that would be needed to create the kind of program I think you've been discussing.

Let me start with "it's not in the manufacturer's interests to do so" in regards to remote control standards. Before the iPhone, ALL cell phones, certainly smartphones were designed for the convenience of the carriers and in the case of Blackberries also the convenience of IT departments rather than the end users. Apple could go from zero to everyone desperately trying to copy them and catch up to them, precisely because they designed a cell phone with JUST the customer in mind and no one else, certainly not carriers or IT departments.

Any product manufacturer in any space, be it HT components or remote controls that makes products with someone other than the customer in mind can go from king of the hill to one step away from bankruptcy in a flash -- all it takes is for ONE capable competitor who cares ONLY about the end customer to enter their space.

Your other points -- forget about RS-232, it was obsoleted in 1984 when Apple released the original Macintosh without an RS-232 port. The fact component makers still use it says something, very, very, very bad about them.

So far as the IR codes -- I certainly see the problem there, but there are solutions. First of all, can't any given iPhone remote maker get the codes directly of the component remotes for popular models -- they can borrow, steal, buy off eBay the remotes in question. Secondly for more obscure stuff, the iPhone remote should certainly be a learning remote. There is no reason that should be difficult to do from an end user perspective if the iPhone software is well enough designed. Also, with 3.0 the business model is there -- the within App sales -- they can keep selling users who own their remote App additional component IR codes/control screens.

Lastly in terms of the incumbent smart/universal control manufacturers, they have a unique opportunity to be the ones to design the killer iPhone app which would end up cannibalizing their existing products. Why do it then? Well, IMO the writing is on the wall. They can either cannibalize themselves, or wait for some other company to put them out of business. In that respect I have feeling that GPS makers are more in touch with reality -- I suspect that TomTom or other brand name turn-by-turn GPS software will appear along with the release of 3.0. Possibly they will sell it bundled with attachments like dashboard mounts and chargers. This is another opportunity for the remote guys who can be selling various IR attachments along with their software.

I do firmly believe that an excellent universal iPhone remote will appear. The only question is when, and who makes it.
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post #26 of 222 Old 03-21-2009, 12:27 PM
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Why do it then? Well, IMO the writing is on the wall. They can either cannibalize themselves, or wait for some other company to put them out of business.

Well said, Ted. Take Sonos as an example--they could have continued with their heads in the sand and kept on soaking potential users for their $400 controller--but they were smart enough to recognize the very real threat Apple's excellent free iTunes remote application for the iPhone/iPod touch represented--and it didn't take them long to get their own free (and quite good) app approved, effectively rendering the Sonos barrier to entry hundreds less steep--as long as you already had one of Apple's handhelds, that is.
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post #27 of 222 Old 03-22-2009, 09:10 AM
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Well, there are different levels of control...

RS-232, as a control protocol for A/V gear, is far from obsolete. We encourage people to spend extra to get the (insert A/V piece here) with RS-232. Ethernet is better, but still not common on high-performance equipment (take the Anthem Statement D2, for example). We prefer ethernet, but RS-232 is far better than IR-only.

IR is unidirectional, so you don't get any feedback from IR devices. Without feedback, you can't know anything about their state. This is why your receiver, TV and cable box sometimes get out of sync -- your remote control system has no way of knowing what state anything is in. It fires the Power On command to the cable box, the receiver and the TV, but it has no way of knowing whether those commands were received and acted upon.

RS-232 is bidirectional. It provides feedback. A well-designed system gets its feedback from the devices it controls, so nothing is ever out-of-sync. If your TV, receiver and TiVo are all connected to a control system (like an AMX or Crestron controller), the remote tells the controller to turn everything on. The controller sends the commands via RS-232, and, if it's programmed well, it will ensure that it gets a response from each device telling it that the device has in fact powered on. If it doesn't get a response immediately, it can send the Power On command again. If it doesn't receive notification from the device that the device has powered on, it can alert the user that there's a problem.

Another benefit to this is that if someone turns on the receiver, TV and TiVo via remote and then turns off the receiver by hand, a well-programmed controller will be polling the power state of the receiver and will know that the device has been powered off, and that the TV and TiVo are still on. It can indicate the receiver's actual status. A remote that doesn't get feedback from the devices it controls could only assume that the receiver was still powered on.

Not everyone needs or wants to pay for the benefit of bidirectional control, but those that have invested in an AMX or Crestron system expect that things will "just work".

As I mentioned, Crestron has released an app for the iPhone. It is a game-changer for them. It still requires that users buy a Crestron controller, but, users no longer have to buy a Crestron touchpanel -- they can use an iPhone or, better yet, a dedicated iPod Touch, instead. They have seen the writing on the wall.

This app brings down the entry price of a Crestron system by a few thousand dollars (more for bigger installations). It means that Crestron will sell fewer remotes and touchpanels, resulting in a loss of revenue. I think they're hoping that by lowering the barrier to entry, they'll sell more of the other hardware they make -- controllers, lighting control, matrix switchers, etc. I think it was a smart move on their part, and, I think it's inevitable that other control system manufacturers will follow. Some already have (Savant and I believe Home Logic have already released apps).

Also, I mentioned that I have written some apps that allow me to use an iPhone or a Mac to interface with a Crestron system. I don't believe the Crestron controller could be taken out of the equation easily. I think you'd lose a lot of functionality. Again, there are plenty of people who don't need or want bidirectional control and maybe IR blasters are fine, but for those who demand a robust system with feedback and have their equipment stored in a rack in another room or under the house, I don't see how iPhone or Cocoa developers could deliver that kind of functionality without a dedicated controller. A programmer could write code to monitor the states of equipment under control and fire off IR and RS-232 commands and even parse the feedback, but the hardware linkage between computers and AV gear isn't really there. For one, AFAIK, there isn't a PCI or USB solution with Mac drivers that provides jacks for IR bugs. IR blasters, Insteon, etc. are meant for people who are willing to spend time massaging their systems, not for clients who want their system to "just work".

Yes, there is the Global Cache, but, again, this is a dedicated controller, albeit an inexpensive one. It's also an external device and requires the coder to interface with an external device that speaks a slightly different language, rather than a PCI or USB interface that can be controlled with Cocoa. All of this results in more customized code that really requires someone on-site to code and debug it, rather than a product that the end user can download from the App Store and get up-and-running quickly and easily.

Another example is the forthcoming Oppo BDP-83 Bluray player. Initially, they weren't going to provide an RS-232 port. I, and I assume others, told them that not offering some means for bidirectional control was a mistake. I noticed the other day that their site now states that they will be offering an RS-232 port as an option. Without that RS-232 port, I think a lot of integrators would not offer their player, no matter how good the A/V quality is. We're always searching for the best price-to-performance ratio for our clients, and bidirectional control is almost always at the top of the list.
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post #28 of 222 Old 03-22-2009, 09:54 AM
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... all it takes is for ONE capable competitor who cares ONLY about the end customer ...

Manufacturers care about their profitability, not the end user. To the extent they can entice the end user to buy their product by offering features or a price point more appealing to the end user than their competitors' products, they may appear to "care" about the end user. But, they don't really care about the end user. They just have more effective market research and better R&D.

Your comments about how the iPhone was a game changer bc Apple designed it with the end user in mind, rather than the carrier really don't apply to the remote control equation. A/V manufacturers do and always have marketed directly to the end user. There never was an intermediary, like a cell phone network service provider, in that mix. So, there really isn't the opportunity for anyone in the A/V remote control business to refocus on the end user.

I'm not saying that you won't eventually see that app that makes your heart go pitter-patter. I am saying that even creating an IR-only app with a database of codesets complete enough to make it just work will require a great deal of time and effort. More than may be immediately apparent. That said, there are probably 15 or 20 developers already working on it.
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post #29 of 222 Old 03-22-2009, 12:18 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by dbfreq View Post

Manufacturers care about their profitability, not the end user. To the extent they can entice the end user to buy their product by offering features or a price point more appealing to the end user than their competitors' products, they may appear to "care" about the end user. But, they don't really care about the end user. They just have more effective market research and better R&D.

Of course they should care about the bottom line -- they would be out of business if they didn't. But there is more than one way to make a profit. I offer Apple as an example of company really does care about the consumer, albeit in an unorthodox way. They didn't come out with the iPhone because market research told them that consumers would want it. Consumers couldn't even imagine an iPhone, much less describe it to some market researcher. But they made a product that Steve Jobs & co would want to use. I don't think that "enticing the end user to buy their product by offering features or a price point" entered their minds -- they wanted to make the BEST product, best by miles and years, especially from a UI standpoint.

Whether carriers are involved in a particular business or not is irrelevant. What does matter is a company's motivation and talent to deliver on it. If their motivation is to make a profit by offering more features or a better price point than their competitor, they are guaranteed to never come out with a great product. They will never match something like the iPhone.

The only way someone will succeed in making a great remote is if they set out to make the best remote ever. I have a feeling that if they deliver on that ambition, making a profit won't be a problem.

Look, ultimately it is just a remote, I am making too much of a deal out of it. But there are two ways to approach this project, and IMO the incumbent players have been doing it the wrong way. I think the iPhone has changed everything. I see no evidence that they do.
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I have been working on a project doing exactly this. You can find the thread in the remote area of this forum. Currently, I am using a development version to control all of the devices in my theater using a mix of Ethernet, rs232 and IR.

Basically, I have been using an HTPC as a remote for years with different applications and an ever increasing level of control and complexity. The issues I was having were that maintenance of this system was a nightmare and I was the only one who could make real system changes. Also, I really just love my iPod touch and wanted an excuse to use it as a remote (OK, really this is probably the main reason).

I agree that the IR world is a mess in terms of codes, we are looking into several different solutions to overcome this enormous hurdle. Also, when it comes to RS232 or direct Ethernet control (Denon, Onkyo/Integra are some manufacturers that support this) the feedback to the remote is incredible. The challenge is that every manufacturer implements a completely different protocol (again nothing is standardized). If I had to say what the number one feature that I now enjoy that I did not have before in a Pronto or URC remote it is the feedback from my devices. This becomes critical when doing multi-zone or multi-room setups. Also, my gear is in another room outside my theater so I have no idea what is really going on without some kind of feedback.

Our current focus is on the ease of use, as most of the tools out there are clearly geared toward the custom installer and expert user, not the average person. Also, this is really the hallmark feature of the iPhone/iTouch

Itai

Did I mention we are flat to 11?
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