The humble remote control is ready for a major face-lift. As TV viewers increasingly interact with content and interactive applications instead of merely flipping channels, "we need better
devices to get through the large plethora of choices," says Comcast product designer Gerard Kunkel.
Updated devices will be in viewers' homes this year. Dish Network will launch a
remote control featuring a touch pad, with half the buttons of standard remotes. The design allows for thumb-control navigation and a trigger to work with a on-screen pointer. Universal
Electronics's new Dolphin remote will allow a user to wave it in the air -- like the Nintendo Wii -- to move an on-screen cursor in any direction. Cox Communications will also launch a new
interactive program guide in the third quarter, which will simplify navigation and lead to a stripped-down, easier-to-use remote.
Incidentally, the two main remote features that Comcast customers have asked for, and Kunkel's team is currently working on, are strikingly simple: a backlit keypad, which can be seen in the dark; and the ability to find a lost remote with an audible tone.