When Zenith invented the first wireless remote control in the mid 1950's, the company probably never envisioned their creation developing so far past the glorified flashlight or noisemakers they once were. Today, with vibrant color touchscreens, Internet connectivity, system automation at the touch of a button and built-in TV guides, the humble clicker has undoubtedly come a long way - towards complexity. Why have remotes developed into such operationally challenging items? With the ever increasing importance placed upon "foolproofing" technology for the masses, it seems as though user interface ergonomics have traveled in the opposite direction. Each time a major component becomes "better", another dozen or so buttons mysteriously blossom on its remote.
Quite a few products have addressed the issue of consolidating remotes into a single, handheld unit, but they almost invariably turn eight remotes with 30 buttons each into a single tactical command center with 240 functions. Isn't it about time someone came up with a truly simple remote control that utilized 21st century technology and innovation?
When the old standards fail...
Improving upon the current designs involves thinking in new directions. Instead of creating a remote that merely archives the functions of others, take those functions and intelligently organize them into different activities - such as "watching a DVD" or "listening to the radio". When a function is seldom used, keep it out of sight - but not out of mind. A good universal remote should never make you sacrifice total control in favor of ease-of-use.
This has been tried before, though you may not have noticed. Up until now, most remotes based on the activity model have limited the number of possible functions or used a single unwavering style of system control on the user. This was the case with the Harman/Kardon Take Control, the first official activity-based remote control. Although a bold step in the direction of ease-of-use, the remote relied completely on the programmer to figure out how to automate their system - and then imposed excessive programming limitations. The Philips Pronto (which is currently the "ultimate lowish-cost remote") is so open ended that it can be configured to work in absolutely any way imaginable, but still requires the programmer to decide how something should or could work. Enter stage left: Easy Zapper Inc.'s $199 Harmony.
As the latest activity-based remote to cross our doorstep, the svelte and aptly named Harmony makes a number of bold claims on its box: "For the first time...your entertainment components will work as a true system"; "replaces all your remotes, including every function"; "you'll never have to set up complex macros". Sound perfect? If that wasn't enough to pique your curiosity, the box goes even further with promises of full TV listings and the ability to "Zap" anything you're watching and have related links automatically appear on your own Harmony home page later. Could Easy Zapper really revolutionize the remote control industry? Well, that's what you're here to find out!