Rhodri Marsden: Help! My universal remote has turned me into a control freak

A friend of mine has recently come to stay for a few weeks. I have no problem with many of the attendant consequences of this, from the sharing of semi-skimmed milk to the curtailing of semi-naked wandering to the bathroom, but one thing that I'm not looking forward to is having to explain the remote control in the living room.

Having spent a great deal of time and effort setting up that godforsaken universal remote to operate four pieces of electronic equipment, I'm familiar with the many secrets held within its sleek body and behind its multitude of buttons. But having to talk someone through it feels a bit embarrassing. It seems preposterous that it should be like this in the year 2014.

But it is. We're surrounded by a wealth of audio-visual technology whose main raison d'être, beyond supplying audio or visuals, seems to be the enforced accumulation of remotes. Logitech's efforts in producing a range of universal remote controls are to be gently applauded, but anyone who's ever tried to key in a search phrase on a TV screen using one – or even using the bunch of remotes that it replaces – will be familiar with the irritation of spending 30 seconds or more entering the word "the". Channel up, channel down and volume present no problem, but accessing iPlayer or iTunes or 4OD with a remote control feels as though you're landscape gardening with a cotton bud. Yes, smartphone apps can offer ways around this but, again, they don't work with everything.

The voice, though. We all have voices. Gadgets are getting better at recognising our voices. So surely we can't be too far away from a Her-esque scenario, where intelligent screens meekly obey our murmured commands? We've certainly moved on from JVC's memorable (and failed) innovation of clap control, where morse code-like sequences of claps were used to change the volume. Samsung, LG and Panasonic have offered some form of voice control in their smart TVs for a few years now, and many Xbox owners will have shouted "Xbox Mute!" to mute their Xboxes, and shouted it again when it didn't work the first time. But on-demand media requires something more sophisticated. Amazon's new Fire TV set-top box, launched a month ago in the US, comes with voice control, but voice searches currently only scan Amazon's library; Hulu, Netflix and the like will have to opt in and make their libraries available for voice searching.

Someone with eagle eyes recently noticed that Apple's iOS 7.1 development kit makes provision for a device – possibly a new Apple TV – to tap into the power of Siri, Apple's voice-recognition assistant. This would represent the TV revolution envisaged by Steve Jobs; he once claimed to his biographer that he had "cracked it" when the future of TV voice control was revealed to him in some kind of technological vision.

But even if a new Apple TV has that capability, we're still dependent on the remote for so many other functions. There seem to be barely any incentives for manufacturers to innovate; indeed, if your company makes FreeView, cable or satellite boxes, easy voice-command access to on-demand telly represents a bullet in the temple of the scheduled programming they provide. It seems that the television's profoundly irritating sidekick will only go to its grave with one heck of a struggle, flaunting its largely redundant yellow, green and blue buttons in a belligerent show of defiance.

twitter.com/rhodri

News
The guide, since withdrawn, used illustrations and text to help people understand the court process (Getty)
newsMinistry of Justice gets law 'terribly wrong' in its guide to courts
News
Bobbi Kristina Brown with her mother Whitney Houston in 2011
people
News
Starting the day with a three-egg omelette could make people more charitable, according to new research
scienceFeed someone a big omelette, and they may give twice as much, thanks to a compound in the eggs
News
Top Gun actor Val Kilmer lost his small claims court battle in Van Nuys with the landlord of his Malibu mansion to get back his deposit after wallpapering over the kitchen cabinets
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
News
The actress Geraldine McEwan was perhaps best known for playing Agatha Christie's detective, Miss Marple (Rex)
peopleShe won a Bafta in 1991 for her role in Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit
News
newsPatrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
News
Robert Fraser, aka Groovy Bob
peopleA new show honours Robert Fraser, one of the era's forgotten players
Life and Style
Torsten Sherwood's Noook is a simple construction toy for creating mini-architecture
tech
Sport
David Silva celebrates with Sergio Aguero after equalising against Chelsea
footballChelsea 1 Manchester City 1
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Gadgets & Tech

    Recruitment Genius: Web Design Apprentice

    £6240 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is a well established websit...

    Recruitment Genius: Senior .Net Application Developer

    £40000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

    Recruitment Genius: .Net / SQL Developer

    £25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A skilled .NET developer with e...

    Recruitment Genius: IT Technical Support Engineer - PC/Mac

    £25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT support company are cur...

    Day In a Page

    As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

    As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

    Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
    Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

    The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

    Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
    Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
    Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

    Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

    A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
    How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

    How books can defeat Isis

    Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
    Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

    Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

    She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
    The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

    The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

    The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
    French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

    French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

    Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
    Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

    Young carers to make dance debut

    What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
    Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

    Design Council's 70th anniversary

    Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
    Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

    Dame Harriet Walter interview

    The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
    Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

    Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

    Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

    Bill Granger's winter salads

    Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
    England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

    George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

    No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
    Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links