HTPC Remote Manifesto (No real products, just wishful thinking) - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 73 Old 11-14-2009, 11:46 AM - Thread Starter
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I built my first HTPC in 2001. At the time, there was no good all-in-one HTPC remote available. The best you could do was get a wireless keyboard with a built-in pointing device, and use that along with a generic PC remote which would hopefully work with whatever software you were using.

Eight years later, the best you can do is get a DiNovo Mini and a Harmony universal remote, and try to get it to work with your software. Essentially the pinnacle of HTPC remote control evolution is a slightly fancier (and much more expensive) version of the two-device kludge we used nearly a decade ago. That is totally unacceptable.

Designing a single remote to control everything is not that hard. I've had a few designs bouncing around my head for a while now, and I'm putting them down here so I can stop thinking about them. Please bear in mind that I am no graphic artist. These were thrown together quickly to give a general idea of the device layouts. I didn't do any market research into the ideal button shape or label font. These are just rough templates for how all the necessary features of a HTPC remote could fit together. I am under no delusion that somebody from Logitech is going to see this and finally make a decent HTPC remote, but hey, you never know.


The following features are mandatory for all designs:
  • Have both IR and RF transmitters
  • Support IR learning
  • PC programmable, including basic macros
  • Allow key-combo assignment to any button (ctrl-z, alt-s, etc)
  • RF dongle supports generic (driverless) mouse and keyboard emulation.
  • Extended drivers (if necessary) and PC config software are multi-platform and open-source.





This design is not exactly pretty, but it is functional. Nothing fancy or complicated, just a normal remote layout with a few modifications. Buttons are double-labeled so the device can be held vertically (for regular remote functions) or horizontally (for qwerty). The red thingie in the middle can either be either a j-mouse or blackberry-style micro trackball. I know I didn't bother filling out all the button labels. You get the general idea. Since there is no complicated engineering involved in the design and it contains no particularly expensive components, there is no reason this remote could not be sold for $40 or less.





OK, I cheated a bit on this one. I started with a picture of the qwerty slider remote from Visio because it was very close to ideal. They've been making slider cell phones for at least 5 years. Why not a remote? Unfortunately Visio's remote is not universal and doesn't have mouse controls, hence the redesign. A small touchscreen allows for custom commands and macros. Like the previous design, mouse control is provided by either a j-mouse of micro trackball. Also like the previous design, I got sick of labeling buttons before I got them all. The four buttons on the left side of the qwerty section could possibly be replaced with a real pivoted d-pad, so the remote would double as a basic game controller.





When I first saw a Samsung Alias 2 with it's e-ink buttons, I figured someone would use that technology in a universal remote right away. It's been nearly a year, and still nothing. Seems like the perfect technology for a high-end remote. You could even get really fancy and use a tilt sensor to have the buttons auto-relabel when you turn the device on it's side. The best thing is that this design allows for completely customized layouts, while still giving you physical buttons to press. Anyone who has owned a fully touchscreen remote knows what a pain in the ass the lack of tactile feedback is. The display in the center is a capacitive touchscreen (320x240 res or higher), which doubles as a trackpad for mouse control. Since this would likely be an expensive device anyway, why not stick a halfway decent ARM SoC in it and run a legitimate OS like Android? It would allow for easy app creation, which would allow the remote to do things like on-the-fly playlist creation and editing, bringing up movie metadata without interrupting the film, display local TV listings, and even light web browsing. Windows Mobile or even WebOS would be options as well, but Android is free and easy to develop.



Any questions?
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post #2 of 73 Old 11-24-2009, 07:13 PM
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*Bump* this thread is great! I like the ideas!

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post #3 of 73 Old 01-06-2010, 10:15 AM - Thread Starter
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Getting closer. Boxee just released pics of their "Two-face" remote for the upcoming Boxee Box.



Comments from the developers on the Boxee Blog confirm that it will be available separately, with an RF receiver for HTPC use.

It's a shame they didn't add analog mouse controls. That would have made it just about perfect.
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post #4 of 73 Old 03-03-2010, 08:30 AM - Thread Starter
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Tivo announced their new series 4 boxes yesterday, and a qwerty slider remote to go along with them. Apparently Tivo has figured out that you can get video on the internet now, so their remotes are built to allow you to search for it. Not that it does us much good, since it won't be available separately with a USB receiver.


Also announced yesterday were two new Harmony remotes, which are functionally identical to the twenty-or-so Harmony remotes that came before them. If a company as slow to innovate as Tivo has figured out that qwerty is necessary, how can Logitech (which has an entire division devoted to high-end remotes) be so clueless? They've been making Harmony remotes for six years, and haven't bothered to put one ounce of innovation into a remote in all that time.
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post #5 of 73 Old 03-03-2010, 08:38 AM
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The DiNovo Mini could have been made into the ultimate HTPC remote if they would have added a 7 cent IR emitter, but then they couldn't try to sell you a hundred dollar harmony remote.

Although it is completely fugly, I've always been partial to this form factor. Just needs a little trackball or analog numb for mouse movement.

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post #6 of 73 Old 03-03-2010, 09:27 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by candre23 View Post

Tivo announced their new series 4 boxes yesterday, and a qwerty slider remote to go along with them. Apparently Tivo has figured out that you can get video on the internet now, so their remotes are built to allow you to search for it. Not that it does us much good, since it won't be available separately with a USB receiver.

Well the Tivo remote will be Bluetooth so maybe it can be easily used on a PC with a BT adapter. However, if you are wanting to use it as a universal remote you are still back at having no perfect solution.

Also, that Tivo remote looks tiny. Probably too small to be practical.

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post #7 of 73 Old 03-03-2010, 12:38 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Suntan View Post

Although it is completely fugly, I’ve always been partial to this form factor.

It's ugly, but at least they were trying. Who exactly is "they", anyway? It looks like it might be an AT&T logo on the bottom, but it's a bit too blurry to be sure. Was this for a DVR or some type of old webTV box?


Quote:
Originally Posted by bryansj View Post

However, if you are wanting to use it as a universal remote you are still back at having no perfect solution.

Also, that Tivo remote looks tiny. Probably too small to be practical.

The size shouldn't be an issue. The channel, volume and 5-way controller are big enough to use without having to look down at the remote, and that's all that really matters. The real problem (beyond not being a universal remote) is that it still lacks an analog pointing device.
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post #8 of 73 Old 03-04-2010, 08:31 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by candre23 View Post

It's ugly, but at least they were trying. Who exactly is "they", anyway? It looks like it might be an AT&T logo on the bottom, but it's a bit too blurry to be sure. Was this for a DVR or some type of old webTV box?

No idea. Came upon that picture about 3 or 4 years ago and obtained a copy of it because discussions like these come up every so often.

Now for something different…

Although these are not even designed for HT, and they aren’t even wireless, a guy would be making a statement if he had one of these lobbed out in the middle of his livingroom to control his TV watching…



http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/produc..._3D_Mouse.html

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/produc..._3D_Mouse.html

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/produc..._3D_Mouse.html

-Suntan
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post #9 of 73 Old 03-04-2010, 09:08 AM - Thread Starter
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Pricey little buggers. Slick though they may be, you'd still need a whole new type of UI to take advantage of the 3-axis functionality. I imagine that somebody with money could hire a design firm to come up with a custom 3D UI (to go along with the new 3D TVs) that, when combined with the 3D control of that mouse, would absolutely blow your mind.

Something like that may well be the future of home theater control. But for now, I'd be happy if somebody would just put together a remote that meets the modest requirements that I outlined in the first post.
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post #10 of 73 Old 03-04-2010, 09:23 AM
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Tip,

Instead of thinking about a remote that acts like a computer ... think about a computer that acts like a remote.

Bob
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post #11 of 73 Old 03-04-2010, 09:26 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by candre23 View Post

Pricey little buggers. Slick though they may be, you'd still need a whole new type of UI to take advantage of the 3-axis functionality. I imagine that somebody with money could hire a design firm to come up with a custom 3D UI (to go along with the new 3D TVs) that, when combined with the 3D control of that mouse, would absolutely blow your mind.

Something like that may well be the future of home theater control. But for now, I'd be happy if somebody would just put together a remote that meets the modest requirements that I outlined in the first post.

They have those spacemice available at my work, but I choose to not bother with them. The intent is to use it for CAD navigation such as zooming, panning, and rotating 3D objects as well as mapping the buttons to frequently used commands. To use one you use your left hand or non-mouse hand in addition to your mouse and keyboard, but that means you need to alternate between the spacemouse and keyboard or have three hands. The software that ships with them comes with button mapping and presets. You can easily set it up to navigate media center by moving it like you would a mouse and then pushing down could be mapped to "enter" and pulling up could be "back". Then the other buttons can be mapped as well for play, rew, ffd,...

However, just because you can do something doesn't mean you should.

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post #12 of 73 Old 03-04-2010, 10:21 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bryansj View Post

However, just because you can do something doesn't mean you should.

Now, now. Fully 90% of the topics talked about on these boards has been in opposition of this viewpoint.

-Suntan
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post #13 of 73 Old 03-04-2010, 10:37 AM
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Just saw this advertised on Techbargains and though of this thread.

lenovo has the Lenovo Multimedia Remote w/ Keyboard for a low $41.99 Free Shipping after Coupon Code: USPCM16336 (3/9). Tax in most.

Features include:

* 2.4GHz wireless keyboard and mouse (with track ball) combo
* Palm-sized dimensions
* As far as 10 meters control distance
* Windows multimedia control
* Compatible with Windows 7

http://shop.lenovo.com/SEUILibrary/c..._menu_area=yes
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post #14 of 73 Old 03-04-2010, 02:51 PM - Thread Starter
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The Lenovo is still just a keypad/mouse combo which can't control anything besides the PC. It doesn't even have a 5-way control pad, which is necessary for navigating any decent frontend. It's really no better than a DiNovo mini, save for being much more reasonably priced. If you're just looking for keypad/mouse control, you're better off with the EFO. It's smaller, backlit, and has a less bizarre shape.
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post #15 of 73 Old 03-05-2010, 07:21 AM
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Here's something that peeked my interest that I found on Engadget.

http://www.engadget.com/2010/03/05/r...c-not-your-wi/

It has a full qwerty keyboard and a trackpad with backlighting. I've been looking for something small but has both keyboard and mouse functionality.

can be yours for about $50 (not bad) at TomTap (see link from engadget article)
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post #16 of 73 Old 03-05-2010, 07:39 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Viremia View Post

Here's something that peeked my interest that I found on Engadget.

http://www.engadget.com/2010/03/05/r...c-not-your-wi/

It has a full qwerty keyboard and a trackpad with backlighting. I've been looking for something small but has both keyboard and mouse functionality.

can be yours for about $50 (not bad) at TomTap (see link from engadget article)

dammit.

i just bought a bluray drive a 1/2 hour ago... now i have to wait until next month...

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post #17 of 73 Old 03-05-2010, 07:51 AM - Thread Starter
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I was just about to post that.



Possibly a better form factor than the EFO, though that trackpad is tiny. This does have a 4-way pad, which is an improvement over the other mini keypads, but it's so small I doubt it would be very comfortable to use as a primary means of navigation.

I suppose you could epoxy a universal remote to the back of this thing and finally have "one" device to control everything.
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post #18 of 73 Old 03-05-2010, 08:30 AM
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That thing looks awesome. I don't need it to be all in one. I'm fine having a remote and a keyboard separate, as I only really use the keyboard when ripping discs and even then it is mostly just to start AnyDVD and type in a disc name and such. I just don't like having the big DiNovo taking up so much space.

Now my problem is that I want to get a nice mouse and jog/shuttle dial for my desktop PC, and I just bought a wireless mouse for my laptop, so the wife would most likely frown on a couple hundred dollars in peripherals all at once

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post #19 of 73 Old 03-05-2010, 09:16 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by candre23 View Post

Also announced yesterday were two new Harmony remotes, which are functionally identical to the twenty-or-so Harmony remotes that came before them. If a company as slow to innovate as Tivo has figured out that qwerty is necessary, how can Logitech (which has an entire division devoted to high-end remotes) be so clueless? They've been making Harmony remotes for six years, and haven't bothered to put one ounce of innovation into a remote in all that time.

Would you really expect much out of a company that for years thought it would be a good idea to put all of the important functions on tiny little buttons in a pretty circle shape? At least the new Harmonys have adopted the Harmony One's button placement (which is maybe the most ergonomically sensible button layout of any remote control because it is pretty easy to do by feel in the dark, when most people are using a remote), plus have the more typical DVR buttons now.

Has anyone ever made an HTPC remote that has both the learning functions of a typical universal remote control and some sort of mouse-like cursor control?
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post #20 of 73 Old 03-05-2010, 09:26 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lousygolfer View Post

Has anyone ever made an HTPC remote that has both the learning functions of a typical universal remote control and some sort of mouse-like cursor control?

no and thats a problem, you'd think microsoft would have been on this already.

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post #21 of 73 Old 03-05-2010, 10:30 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mike_311 View Post

no and thats a problem, you'd think microsoft would have been on this already.

The Gyration remote does IR learning, and obviously has it's gyroscope-based mouse control. I've tried a previous version and found it to be so inaccurate and frustrating that I wanted to throw it across the room within 5 minutes.
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post #22 of 73 Old 03-05-2010, 11:13 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by candre23 View Post

The Gyration remote does IR learning, and obviously has it's gyroscope-based mouse control. I've tried a previous version and found it to be so inaccurate and frustrating that I wanted to throw it across the room within 5 minutes.

I find that the gyration air mouse/remote/keyboard combo is great if you try to use them for exactly what they appear to be. If you are trying to get the remote to operate anything other than Windows Media Center then you will be frustrated. I was happy just to get it to control the volume on my Onkyo 805. I am content to simply use it as a mouse.

The keyboard misses the occasional key press which is frustrating but common for wireless keyboards.

The air mouse function is fantastic. If the Rii had this function built in it would be the "must have" HTPC accessory.

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post #23 of 73 Old 03-05-2010, 11:54 AM
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I just picked this up for under $40 with shipping, not a bad choice for what I need. Anyone got one?

http://www.tigerdirect.com/applicati...8195&CatId=358

I just need to keep things simple for the wife! Not that she is not capable of being technical, she just has no interest in it..
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post #24 of 73 Old 03-08-2010, 06:20 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by johnjack11 View Post

I just picked this up for under $40 with shipping, not a bad choice for what I need. Anyone got one?

http://www.tigerdirect.com/applicati...8195&CatId=358

I just need to keep things simple for the wife! Not that she is not capable of being technical, she just has no interest in it..

I did the same thing on Friday and it arrived today. I'll play around with it over the weekend. After I placed the order, I discovered some reviews that claimed that these gyration remotes do not have audio volume pass through in PC mode. Hopefully that's not true. JohnJack, if you get to it before I do, please post your impressions of this remote and whether or not you can get your TV or receiver's volume to work in PC mode.
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post #25 of 73 Old 09-07-2010, 12:37 PM - Thread Starter
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Another "close, but no cigar" entry: http://www.engadget.com/2010/09/07/p...attractive-pe/

It's got a full qwerty keypad, a 5-way controller, and (probably) an optical trackpad for mouse control. What it doesn't have is a number pad. I'm not sure how you can submit a design for a universal remote that doesn't have a fracking number pad and not get fired, but some dingbat at Phillips not only kept his job, but they're actually manufacturing it. Amazing.

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post #26 of 73 Old 09-07-2010, 10:35 PM
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Yeah I'm not convinced such a device will ever be ideal, at least in the short-term...
I think for the "best of both worlds" it's better to have a streamlined Keyb + universal remote of your choice.
Then you don't have to compromise much on either, & it's not dramatically more fiddly or space consuming.
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post #27 of 73 Old 09-10-2010, 04:30 AM
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I have just installed a 10" touch screen monitor wired back (under floor wiring) to the HTPC using W7, I am able to carry out all functions on the Pc and operate WMC.. Probably a sledge hammer to crack a nut ! But if you want to impress..................
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post #28 of 73 Old 09-10-2010, 04:42 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LPT View Post

I have just installed a 10" touch screen monitor wired back (under floor wiring) to the HTPC using W7, I am able to carry out all functions on the Pc and operate WMC.. Probably a sledge hammer to crack a nut ! But if you want to impress..................

does it control all your other components as well?... tv, receiver, cable box, etc?
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post #29 of 73 Old 09-10-2010, 08:11 AM
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I'm glad I found this thread, and I'm glad someone else shares my thoughts about how we've had the technololgy for making a true all-in-one universal remote for years now, but no one seems to care to make one.

I use a Gyration Air-Music remote + wireless RF keyboard. For me the air-mouse control is excellent, controlling 7MC is excellent. The range is great on the keyboard and remote.
The problem is with the learning ability. It's terrible at learning, it seems to almost pick and choose what keys it will learn. For example, I can learn the volume and power buttons for my TV, but not the arrow keys. Similar problems happen for the rest of my components, and for whatever reason none of them match the pre-programmed codes. So I have to keep my STB remote to control everything else besides the HTPC.

Right now I'm researching on getting a Harmony remote, but that is gonna be a hassle to work with my HTPC. I'd lose RF HTPC control. I don't have an IR receiver, the Harmony doesn't come with one, and I can't seem to find stand-alone IR receivers. I'd have to buy a remote-with-receiver then toss the remote, and I'm not even sure how they'd work as far as S3 resume and 7MC functionality...

They just need to make a remote like the Boxee remote but slightly bigger, put harmony controls on top with Gyration's gyroscope for mouse control, and include a RF receiver for the computer as well as the wiring needed to hook up to the power jumper on the motherboard (like the antec veris) for cold booting if needed. The keyboard on the bottom would enable and disable via accelerometer.

I'd even be happy if they had something like that but without the keyboard, since I mostly use the HTPC in 7MC to watch content and don't browse as much. I'd probably be browsing more if I had a nice solution like that.

For now I'm just gonna subscribe to this thread and wait for something amazing to come out.
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post #30 of 73 Old 09-10-2010, 08:20 AM
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If you want a basic RF universal remote, MX-980 is right up there...
You have to be prepared to learn some basic programmability, but it's extremely flexible once you do. (compared to harmony remotes anyway)

I'm settled on a Harmony one + the Hauppauge remote kit IR receiver for now.
I believe there's IR recievers you can buy stand-alone....
There's a HP one, can't recall exact name right now, but the hauppauge kit isn't much more.
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