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Innovation

That trusty television remote is ready for a remake

Today, you can't possibly mistake your remote control for your cell phone. But give it a year or two, and you might.

Your television's remote control might not look or function much differently than it did 10 or even 20 years ago. One could say that, design-wise, remote controls get updated about as often as mom jeans.

But that's about to change, says Fast Company.

The magazine talked to the four manufacturers who sell half the TVs in the world -- Sony, Samsung, LG, and Vizio -- and got an update on how they plan to bring the remote control 2.0 to market.

Why is this happening now, after so many years of bland, button-rich devices that make our cell phones look like they're from the future? Because TV manufacturers' hands have been tied by makers of set-top boxes whose remotes trump theirs, in terms of function. And why have those remotes also remained stuck in the last century? Because consumers, it turns out, like buttons and they like predictability. Plus, TVs sell TVs, remotes don't sell TVs.

Over the next three years, however, consumers will witness the evolution of the remote, thanks to cheaper handheld technologies and the emergence of "smart" television features that TV manufacturers -- not cable providers -- will enable. Think of things like Wi-Fi or Internet TV access.

Fast Company's Mark Wilson writes "a new generation of TV technologies will offer manufactures another chance--some might say, one last chance--to sell consumers on their own innovation."

But will consumers cotton to whiz-bang remotes, with touch-screens and voice and gesture controls? It doesn't sound like a sure bet, based on research that shows a strong preference for incumbent designs. Plus, the article quotes some manufacturers talking about how they don't want some features to become standardized across the industry, so that they can use them as differentiators and selling features for their televisions. But that sounds like a great way to annoy consumers, who generally want all their electronics to function the same way. (OK, that might not be true when to comes to Apple products.)

Plus, clicker buttons produce kinetic energy, which can be harvested in order to ensure a long (very long) battery life. So hopefully they won't all disappear.

It sounds like the battle over form and function is just getting started.

[Via: Fast Company]

Image: Flickr/Tiniest Tiger

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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