Why Can't All TV Remotes Be This Good?

The remote control has become a maddening jumble of buttons. U.K.-based NDS distills the device down to its essential functions.

The long-fought battle for the remote control hasn't gone away; it's just gotten more complicated. With most TV hookups requiring a receiver or DVD player, the power-grabbing command "Just hand me the remote" can now be countered with "Which one?" Adding to the confusion: Each clicker has a gazillion buttons, many of which don't seem to correspond to functions. As the Red Dot?winning unit for the French telecom company SFR shows, a remote can actually be divinely simple.

Taking a page from Dieter Rams, the U.K.?based company NDS reduced the keys to a bare minimum and divided the functions into two segments: One half manages the main functions of the TV user interface, such as changing the channel, while the other keys provide shortcuts to dedicated functions. The two areas are set off by material, shape, and color.

It's intuitive enough that a user can navigate the user interface without diverting her eyes away from the screen to look down at the remote, making it easier to engage in the always-contentious act of unmitigated channel surfing. Will it resolve conflicts over what to watch? Probably not. But next to the death of the remote, it's the best solution we've seen. Unfortunately, you've got to be in France to get one.


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  • Tim J. Morton

    The true point of evolution seems to have been missed here -  which is the cohesive integration of the hardware (remote design and the UX (user experience design) - without each other the whole proposition is flawed. As it is the layers of motion needed onscreen does seem rather deep and cumbersome -  the question in my mind is"Are higher click counts more preferable than higher button counts for the average consumer?"

  • Manuel Dos Reis Machado

    I like the idea of a simplified remote, but the remote doesn't exist in a vacuum. It needs correspondingly simple-yet-powerful software to interact with. In this case, their interpretation of simple is to make everything very "deep" (many layers of menus to get to content), which quickly becomes frustrating. Looks like a terrible user experience to me - can you imagine navigating a list of hundreds of items when they all have to slide on, 5 tiles at a time, then slide off to load the next set?