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Smart Alex: Remotely Challenging

Am I mistaken, or were remote controls meant to make life easier, not harder?

Alex Kidman
Am I mistaken, or were remote controls meant to make life easier, not harder?

I am constantly cursed at home with the challenges of finding the right remote. Inbetween a couple of DVD players, the TV, foxtel remote and a broken remote that I keep around to keep my daughter amused, I can often be found juggling remotes just in order to watch some simple TV. If it's the so-easily-broken-it-may-as-well-be-made-of-origami Foxtel remote, it'll probably be quicker to just get up and fiddle with the set top boxes.

Now, there are some very fine universal remote controls on the market today that could alleviate some of my stress, but sadly, I fear we're some time away from a really useful remote control. What I want out of a remote control is somewhat different to what's currently on offer. For a start, I want the thing to talk. Picture the scene, if you will:

(A living room somewhere in suburban Australia. Enter Alex, with a leggy supermodel on each arm. Actually, in the interests of his wife not beating the living hell out of him, enter Alex, alone.)

Alex: Remote!
Remote: Yes master. I'm currently crammed inbetween the couch cushions, where your daughter crammed me last night. It's 7:47am, the temperature inbetween the cushions is 18 degrees. Would you like me to switch the TV on?

Voice activation isn't just a matter of finding lost remotes -- although let's be honest here, that feature alone could save untold tons of stress and pressure in modern families. Where it would be really useful is in combination with a bit of subtle profiling, specifically of the programs that you like to watch. The TiVO service in the US already does something like this -- if all you watch is, say, The Apprentice, day in, day out, then it'll note that, record a few other reality programs in the background and suggest them to you as alternate programs in the same style. Imagine combining that kind of functionality with a voice activated remote control, already imbued with an electronic program guide. Picture the scene once more:

Alex: Remote, I'd like to watch some news.
Remote: Apologies, master. The only news running at the moment hasn't changed significantly since you've last watched news. Would you like a summary?
Alex: No thanks. Any good documentaries on?
Remote: Are you in the mood for a) People repairing cars, b) Sharks tearing lesser mammals apart or c) Animals doing rude things to themselves to shock grannies in zoos?
Alex: I'll take b), thanks.

What do you think? Are there features you'd like to see in a remote control that aren't currently available? Let me know your thoughts below!