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Development Of The TiVo Remote Charted

simoniker posted more than 10 years ago | from the how-i-compare-thee-to-a dept.

Television 333

victor_the_cleaner writes "The New York Times (anonymous readers need not apply) has an article about the development of the TiVo remote control. The article reviews the user-centered design approach the designers took. According to the lead designer, they considered 'how it feels in the hand, for long periods of time.' How about you - do you have an emotional attachment to your TiVo remote? Or other well-designed objects?"

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Text of article (-1, Informative)

Snake_Plisken (666881) | more than 10 years ago | (#8324246)

To most home viewers, remote controls may seem like ancillary sidekicks to the main attraction that is the television, DVD player or digital video recorder. Yet in some ways the remote has become the centerpiece of home entertainment: so many functions have been relegated to this slip of an object that if it is lost, you may find yourself unable to do so much as call up a menu for watching the movie you popped into the DVD player. Advertisement But if the remote control is a linchpin, it is also often an inscrutable one. A typical remote may have some 40 buttons, with functions that are hard to divine. Often the labels - "toggle," "planner" and the like - are no help. The device can feel like an afterthought, thrown together without any planning at all. Increasingly, however, electronics companies are recognizing that building an easy-to-use remote control is an important and challenging task. To improve the remote, they are deploying teams of experienced industrial designers who focus on the product for months - and reaching out to consumers for advice. In 1998, design engineers at TiVo, the Silicon Valley company that helped introduce the digital video recorder to the world, set out to produce a distinctive remote control. The result was a textbook blend of complexity and ease of use. A month into the model-making, the peanut emerged. "The shape is comfortable in your hand," Mr. Newby said. "It's friendly and disarming. It's designed for simplicity, and it stands apart from the crowd of remotes on the coffee table." The next challenge was to fend off an attack of buttonitis. "Buttons proliferate on remotes like rabbits," Mr. Newby said, adding that he and his designers, who ranged in age from 25 to 45, had "bloody battles" over which ones to include. They managed to hold the number at 30, a considerable achievement given how many functions the TiVo receiver performs. Color, too, was a well-trampled subject. "Color is this very emotional thing," Mr. Newby said. Determined to come up with shades that the designers considered "warmer" than standard-issue black, they chose dark cherry as the base color, with light gray keys for contrast. Advertisement To avoid a look that was too bright and toylike, he said, all of the colors ultimately got "dusted down a notch." The pause button, for example, is a subtle yellow-orange. Then came the feel of the buttons, for which they chose a smooth, pliable rubber. Mr. Newby likened the feel of hitting the buttons to that of playing a piano. When a button is pushed, the user feels a slight snap, signaling that the key has traveled far enough to achieve electrical contact. "These are the devilish details that often get overlooked," he said. In the middle of the design process, Mr. Newby turned to non-engineers on the TiVo staff for feedback. This helped the designers refine the size and shape of the keys and the amount of space between them. By September 1998, 11 weeks into the process, Mr. Newby and his team had completed the first few hand-built functional remotes. Then came a quick tooling cycle so TiVo could distribute the remotes to beta testers, consisting of technologically inexperienced friends and relatives of employees. The testers' feedback prompted the TiVo designers to reduce the time lapse between pressing a button and seeing the command executed on the screen. The same group helped the designers fine-tune the dimensions of the remote to maximize the comfort level. Mr. Newby said the testers also advised the designers on where to put the battery compartment so that the device would balance nicely in the hand. Other refinements followed, and by the time the first TiVo box was shipped to stores in March 1999, the remote was being produced in high volume. The base color of the remote has since been changed to a dark gray to match TiVo's Series 2 receiver, with buttons of much lighter gray for contrast. And the number of buttons crept up to 34. But the look and feel of the original TiVo remote as it emerged from the design team's sketchbooks and modeling labs has survived, which is no coincidence. "We wanted to create an iconic shape that would stick," said Dennis Boyle, a team leader at Ideo, a design firm in Palo Alto, Calif., that lent its expertise early in the process. TiVo holds four design patents on the remote's basic shape and key layout. Third-party companies that sell receivers with TiVo built in, like the satellite television provider DirecTV, supply customers with a 36-button remote that is almost identical to the one sold with TiVo boxes. The TiVo remote has many fans. One TiVo aficionado, Pat Hughes, a software engineer in San Jose, Calif., dressed up his two-month-old daughter as the remote for Halloween in 2002. The costume, which took a week to make, was a painstakingly exact replica, complete with battery compartment in the back. "That's where she went in," he said. Mr. Hughes ranks his TiVo remote among the most important objects in his house because of the amount of time the device spends in his hand. "I don't think that you reach that level of simple elegance by accident,'' he said. "It's designed the way remotes should be designed." Yet even some people who admire the remote say it has room for improvement. Mr. Nielsen, the design critic, said that there was not enough contrast between some of the most important buttons and the body. "The writing is small, and to add insult to injury, the contrast is too low," he said. The remote still gets lost, and its gray tones do not help it stand out when it is wedged, say, between sofa cushions. Mr. Newby himself is considering some improvements, like enabling the remote to stand up on the coffee table. He has a couple of tongue-in-cheek ideas, too: a beer-proof, dishwasher-safe version and a "Mega Mute version that mutes the neighbor's barking dog." The peanut-shaped TiVo remote is at once playful and functional. A smiling TV set with feet and rabbit ears, the company's logo, graces the top. Distinctive buttons like a green thumbs-up and a red thumbs-down button have helped the remote win design awards from the Consumer Electronics Association. "They did a really good job," said Jakob Nielsen of the Nielsen Norman Group, a technology consulting firm in Fremont, Calif. Mr. Nielsen called the oversize yellow pause button in the middle of the remote "the most beautiful pause button I've ever seen." When Paul Newby, TiVo's director of consumer design, arrived in June 1998, as the company was just starting up, he and a team of six designers were given 14 weeks to come up with a functioning remote control. Along the way they relied not only on their own instincts but also on feedback from potential users on everything from the feel of the device in the hand to the best place for the batteries. Mr. Newby, 45, a mechanical engineer, came to TiVo by way of designing much larger objects - Caterpillar construction equipment, to be specific. Designing something that was by comparison microscopic was an inviting challenge. Many remotes are monochromatic slices of hard plastic. For years, they have generally stuck to the old design conventions, a rectangle with neat rows and columns of buttons lined up like so many cadets. "They were designed by - and I hate to say it because I am one of them - engineers," Mr. Newby said. Mr. Nielsen said: "They work well if you're sitting in bright light and you have good eyesight and you're 20 or 30 years old. They're overloaded with features you don't really need except once a year or once a lifetime." The shape of the remote - the subtlety of how it feels in the hand - was Mr. Newby's first major design consideration. Because of the nature of the TiVo video recorder, the remote is held for long periods as users continually choose shows to record, skip commercials, fast-forward and rewind recorded shows, rate programs by pressing the thumbs-up or thumbs-down buttons, and even pause live TV. Designing a remote that consumers would find comfortable was a high priority. Central to the process, Mr. Newby said, was producing prototypes "early, ugly and often." Ugly? "There tends to be this conservatism in the design process," he said. "I encourage young designers to go off and scare me.'' Some of the results fell under the category of "Be careful what you wish for." One sketch was of a remote that looked like a horned toad. Another resembled an ice scraper for a windshield. In the pursuit of ease of use, the design team struggled with how to symbolize the notion of rating a program, an unfamiliar button concept for most viewers. (By telling the machines what kinds of shows they like or dislike, users "teach" TiVo what programs to record on its own.) "Rather than pick some esoteric technical term about 'preferred' or 'not preferred' television programming, we came up with the thumbs," Mr. Newby said. Hundreds of sketches were quickly narrowed to dozens, and three-dimensional models were carved from rigid foam in the shape of spoons, slabs and paddles.

Re:Text of article (4, Funny)

jakoz (696484) | more than 10 years ago | (#8324261)

...and in other news, several thousand internet users mysteriously suffered spontaneous eye bleeding.

Re:Text of article (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8324285)

And several thousand others, skipped over the comment.

Re:Text of article (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8324270)

I don't think karma-whoring works very well without line breaks :p

ANN COULTER TOUCHED MY JUNK CONSERVATIVELY (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8324275)

Re:Text of article (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8324445)

Since Tivo came out with their restrictive dongle and DRM, I really don't give a rats' ass about them anymore.

Re:Text of article (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8324460)

-1 Learn to Format

Re:Text of article (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8324462)

Whoever wrote that article really needs to learn about paragraphs.

Text of article (with line breaks) (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8324478)

// The article really pissed me off because of the huge flash ad in the middle of the page. You shouldn't suffer the same. Missing: stock photo of a remote control.

To most home viewers, remote controls may seem like ancillary sidekicks to the main attraction that is the television, DVD player or digital video recorder. Yet in some ways the remote has become the centerpiece of home entertainment: so many functions have been relegated to this slip of an object that if it is lost, you may find yourself unable to do so much as call up a menu for watching the movie you popped into the DVD player.

But if the remote control is a linchpin, it is also often an inscrutable one. A typical remote may have some 40 buttons, with functions that are hard to divine. Often the labels - "toggle," "planner" and the like - are no help. The device can feel like an afterthought, thrown together without any planning at all.

Increasingly, however, electronics companies are recognizing that building an easy-to-use remote control is an important and challenging task. To improve the remote, they are deploying teams of experienced industrial designers who focus on the product for months - and reaching out to consumers for advice.

In 1998, design engineers at TiVo, the Silicon Valley company that helped introduce the digital video recorder to the world, set out to produce a distinctive remote control. The result was a textbook blend of complexity and ease of use.

The peanut-shaped TiVo remote is at once playful and functional. A smiling TV set with feet and rabbit ears, the company's logo, graces the top. Distinctive buttons like a green thumbs-up and a red thumbs-down button have helped the remote win design awards from the Consumer Electronics Association.

"They did a really good job," said Jakob Nielsen of the Nielsen Norman Group, a technology consulting firm in Fremont, Calif. Mr. Nielsen called the oversize yellow pause button in the middle of the remote "the most beautiful pause button I've ever seen."

When Paul Newby, TiVo's director of consumer design, arrived in June 1998, as the company was just starting up, he and a team of six designers were given 14 weeks to come up with a functioning remote control. Along the way they relied not only on their own instincts but also on feedback from potential users on everything from the feel of the device in the hand to the best place for the batteries.

Mr. Newby, 45, a mechanical engineer, came to TiVo by way of designing much larger objects - Caterpillar construction equipment, to be specific. Designing something that was by comparison microscopic was an inviting challenge.

Many remotes are monochromatic slices of hard plastic. For years, they have generally stuck to the old design conventions, a rectangle with neat rows and columns of buttons lined up like so many cadets.

"They were designed by - and I hate to say it because I am one of them - engineers," Mr. Newby said.

Mr. Nielsen said: "They work well if you're sitting in bright light and you have good eyesight and you're 20 or 30 years old. They're overloaded with features you don't really need except once a year or once a lifetime."

The shape of the remote - the subtlety of how it feels in the hand - was Mr. Newby's first major design consideration.

Because of the nature of the TiVo video recorder, the remote is held for long periods as users continually choose shows to record, skip commercials, fast-forward and rewind recorded shows, rate programs by pressing the thumbs-up or thumbs-down buttons, and even pause live TV. Designing a remote that consumers would find comfortable was a high priority.

Central to the process, Mr. Newby said, was producing prototypes "early, ugly and often."

Ugly?

"There tends to be this conservatism in the design process," he said. "I encourage young designers to go off and scare me.''

Some of the results fell under the category of "Be careful what you wish for." One sketch was of a remote that looked like a horned toad. Another resembled an ice scraper for a windshield.

In the pursuit of ease of use, the design team struggled with how to symbolize the notion of rating a program, an unfamiliar button concept for most viewers. (By telling the machines what kinds of shows they like or dislike, users "teach" TiVo what programs to record on its own.)

"Rather than pick some esoteric technical term about 'preferred' or 'not preferred' television programming, we came up with the thumbs," Mr. Newby said.

Hundreds of sketches were quickly narrowed to dozens, and three-dimensional models were carved from rigid foam in the shape of spoons, slabs and paddles.

Please don't ask that here... (5, Funny)

momerath2003 (606823) | more than 10 years ago | (#8324247)

"...emotional attachment to ... other well-designed objects"

Oh, no... why must they ask such a question on Slashdot?!? Why?!?

Re:Please don't ask that here... (2, Funny)

dolo666 (195584) | more than 10 years ago | (#8324272)

hey, it's not an Xbox controller, so I'm not sure what all the fuss is about!

Re:Please don't ask that here... (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8324405)

Heh, yeah, they should have used the X-box controller as the opposite example... The XL or the S XBox controllers must be the worst designed controllers in 10 years...

Personally, I'd vote in The PS/2 duel-shock controllers as another item like the tivo remote.

/me has neither :(

Re:Please don't ask that here... (1)

ryanw (131814) | more than 10 years ago | (#8324448)

they should have used the X-box controller as the opposite example...

Exactly.... That xbox controller is one of the worsts controllers in console history.

Re:Please don't ask that here... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8324302)

...Yeah, like I've been programming in C++ for 6 years now, and like I've got a real emotional attachment to many of my well-designed objects...

Re:Please don't ask that here... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8324354)

private Member schlong; cout schlong; return 0; - stdout: 0xFFD8A63E Just be careful where you point that thing.

Re:Please don't ask that here... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8324323)

Apparently at 2 inches I have a flawed design.

In the hand (5, Funny)

zalas (682627) | more than 10 years ago | (#8324253)

"how it feels in the hand, for long periods of time"... I don't know about you, but I don't get attached to things that feel good in my hand... except for certain bod- errr nevermind

Re:In the hand (1)

jigyasubalak (308473) | more than 10 years ago | (#8324618)

> "how it feels in the hand, for long periods of time".

God sure did put in a lot of thought when he designed a lot of things which would be held in the hand for long periods of time.

The pencil (5, Interesting)

ObviousGuy (578567) | more than 10 years ago | (#8324259)

It is obvious what it is designed for and easy to use.

The TiVo folks really did a great job in the design of the remote, however I would have liked it a little smaller. It's kind of like the phasers in Star Trek TNG which went from being gun-like to being tamagotchi-like to the final TV remote shape. If TiVo could fit all that functionality into a tamagotchi sized remote, I would be the first one at the store to buy.

Nature has already designed the perfect remote... (1)

Gyler St. James (637482) | more than 10 years ago | (#8324260)

...and it's the progenator of the phallic symbol. And geeks wonder why women won't touch their remote...

Laught. It's not *that* funny.

Best Remote Ever (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8324263)

Just my humble opinion... but the TiVo Peanut Remote is the best designed remote control ever made. It fits your hand perfectly, and all of the controls are easily reached with your thumb. The only problem is that it can't control your DVD player.

Re:Best Remote Ever (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8324494)

The only problem is that it can't control your DVD player.

If you have the Pioneer TiVo/DVD burner you can control your DVD, TiVo, and burn DVDs with the same remote.

I concur...my ergonomic story (4, Interesting)

Atario (673917) | more than 10 years ago | (#8324513)

The TiVo remote is indeed well-designed and more or less a joy to use. However, it seems to suffer a problem pandemic to all remotes: the eventual mysterious "buttons need ever-larger amounts of pressure to make electrical contact" problem. I tried taking it apart (which, of course, no remote is designed for), breaking the tiny points of the circuit board at the front. I washed the contacts anyway and put it back together, only to discover that the buttons now worked well, but the visible-light LED no longer worked. Sigh.

So I ordered a replacement from the TiVo website. Oddly expensive -- $35. Plus, only the translucent blue was available. On top of that, when it came, I discovered it was slightly different from the old remote in form and function. The immediate upshot was that it's slightly longer, which, having gotten used to the good layout so intuitively before, required a period of adjustment to the new positions without having to look or feel for it.

Anwyay. Anyone have a better method to cure (or prevent) that button-mashing problem?

Re:I concur...my ergonomic story (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8324586)

New batteries seem to work for me.

My Mac (0, Offtopic)

kevin_ka (753643) | more than 10 years ago | (#8324266)

"...emotional attachment to ... other well-designed objects"

Although I also have 4 other PCs, the only one I feel attached to is my Mac, all the others can go to hell.
hmm (pls don't tell my gf about this)

Re:My Mac (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8324281)

does that mean one of your pcs is your girlfriend??? well this IS slashdot...

Re:My Mac (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8324384)

I like my Macintoshes as much as the next guy but the item I'm really attached to is the iPod. It's designed to work equally well for left or right handed people using a single digit for navigation. It's small, it's light, but most importantly it does exactly what I want it to do and it doesn't try to do much else beyond that unless you ask it too. Sure it can be an address book, calendar, gameboy, and alarm clock but I want an MP3 player and that's where the ipod shines. I love how it works as if by magic to the end user. I put it in the dock when I come home - and when I want to leave again, all my music is on there and it's full of battery life. Sure it's all just automount, firewire, and some C code - but you don't need to know that, and I'm happy living with a magical white box. Not to mention it reeks of yuppy-style poking out the top of your pocket and there is something to be said for that.

DAMN IT (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8324271)

just say penis and get this all over with fast...
stupid ass slashdot...

wouldn't use anything else (4, Interesting)

bravehamster (44836) | more than 10 years ago | (#8324276)

My fiancee got me this awesome programmable remote control. You know, with the touch sensitive lcd, learning functions (works with Bose stereos even!). That cleaned up 5 remotes off of our coffee table. The only remote I refuse to program into it is the Tivo remote. That thing is perfect. Accept no substitute. Every button is well placed, and easy to locate without looking. She understands...

Re:wouldn't use anything else (2, Insightful)

Repton (60818) | more than 10 years ago | (#8324371)

We have one of these. The only problem with it is exactly the issue this article is addressing --- when the remote consists only of a 5cm by 12cm LCD (or so), there is no tactile feedback. It is almost impossible to use by touch. (I am getting better, but I still hit the wrong button often)

We can all be anonymous at NYTimes (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8324277)

Username: slashdotcoward
Password: slashdotcoward

Open source Tivo Control!!! (5, Interesting)

nil5 (538942) | more than 10 years ago | (#8324286)

This is a really cool project you might want to check out if you're interested in controlling the TiVo unit with a web browser rather than the standard remote control. i mean, sure the control is great and all, but i prefer a mouse :)

see here [lightn.org] .

Re:Open source Tivo Control!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8324631)

Is there something similar available for MythTV or Freevo? (I understand it's easy to use TightVNC to control the interface, but that would be too annoying).

Can you, for example, log into any of the aformentioned PVRs and instruct it to record programming while you're away?

Any idea?

Attachment... (5, Interesting)

machinecraig (657304) | more than 10 years ago | (#8324287)

I have a strong attachment to my WASD layout for FPS games.
Often times at work I find my fingers relaxing into FPS stance.

Mouse... (3, Interesting)

Agent_Number_4 (697721) | more than 10 years ago | (#8324289)

I have the Logitech cordless mouseman optical, I even want to bring it to work with me sometimes. After 8 hours using some generic PS2 scroll mouse, the hand shape of the mouseman is just what I need.

Always wonder if they make all of their models of mice for left handed people as well though?

Re:Mouse... (4, Interesting)

kfg (145172) | more than 10 years ago | (#8324457)

I'll go along with this one, I love my Logi mouse, with the caveat issue that you raise. I'm ambimousterous, but not fully ambidexterous. The Logi is a right hander period.

When taking hand written notes I have to use my right hand to write and left hand for the mouse. The best symetrical mouse I've ever used is the orginal Microsoft optical wheel mouse. It's 98% of the Logi, in either hand, so I can pass it back and forth with ease.

Speaking of writing, another favorite item of mine is my Parker matte black ballpoint pen. The traditional tapered shape (I can't stand the pencil straight barrel of a Cross), and a bit slender for long writing sessions, but something about its feel and finish hits me just right and I don't do long writing sessions anymore. That's why God invented typing.

Oxo kitchen tools. This stuff is truly the bee's knees. They're simply perfect. I've gotten rid of all my "classy" expensive kitchen stuff in favor of these "cheap" plastic tools.

With the exception of my traditional Japanese bamboo rice paddle. Sometimes the traditional tool is honed to perfection.

Snap-On combination wrenches. The Craftsman stuff is just as good, until you have to spend all day every day turning them. The Snap-Ons are caressable. The Craftsmans will leave your hands mildly abraded and sore.

Shimano bicycle brake levers. It took 100 years before someone got that one right. Go figure.

A replica of a 100 year old Adirondack hiking staff pattern made by the Poestenkill Hiking Staff company. They don't seem to have a web presence and for all know have been out of business for a long time. Mine is 20 years old. Simply perfect. In this case 100 years ago they knew a lot better than we do now. Perfectly shaped. Perfectly balanced. Perfect resilience.

KFG

Oh, and vi (1)

kfg (145172) | more than 10 years ago | (#8324518)

Hate it all you want, but it is the editor for the pure touch typist. Nothing else even comes close.

Billy boy, ya done good. Bless you.

KFG

iPod (-1, Offtopic)

Starve (672909) | more than 10 years ago | (#8324290)

My iPod most definitly is the most well designed easy to use conveinence ever, it oozes easy to use and it just has an elegance and flow to it that makes you want to use it.

Re:iPod (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8324308)

Careful you don't "ooze" all over your iPod there, big guy.

Re:iPod (-1, Offtopic)

Starve (672909) | more than 10 years ago | (#8324496)

ahhaha nice one ;-) and to the person who rated me off topic "How about you - do you have an emotional attachment to your TiVo remote? Or other well-designed objects?"

The length or the girth? (2, Funny)

ricochet81 (707864) | more than 10 years ago | (#8324292)

http://graphics7.nytimes.com/images/2004/02/18/tec hnology/19REMOTE.b.jpg Yep, remote control is the first thing that comes to mind when viewing their prototypes.

Other remote controls (4, Interesting)

Capt'n Hector (650760) | more than 10 years ago | (#8324295)

What about badly designed objects? My comcast cable remote is horrible. To use the scroll buttons on the program guide (if it can be called such, half of it is ads) I need to contort my wrist. Why remote controls are still shaped like hotdog buns is beyond me. On some level, these designers must realize that an ideal situation would involve a more mouse-like remote. And please, lets start using RF instead of IR. I'm sick of pointing my remote. Yes I'm that lazy.

Re:Other remote controls (1)

pmbuko (162438) | more than 10 years ago | (#8324329)

Yes, we all need more devices competing for airspace with our wireless networks. With RF remotes, when your neighbor powers up his home theater system and pops in the latest action explode-a-rama, you get knocked offline before you complete your blog entry dedicated to bitching about neoghbors with subwoofers. Wee haaaw!

Re:Other remote controls (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8324621)

My ATI/X10 RF remote uses 433.92 MHz as its frequency (according to an FCC ID search [fcc.gov] for B4SUR84A), so it shouldn't compete with any networks.

This remote has really spoiled me - it always works (as long as the batteries are good), regardless of where I aim it. The IR remote on my parents' digital tuner annoys me every time I use it now. If there's more than a 10 degree angle from the IR receiver, it won't receive the signal (possibly because of the glass window on the TV stand reflecting it).

Whatever happened to powerful IR remotes? I had an old IR remote for a Jerrold TV tuner in the 1980s. It took a 9-volt battery, but I could aim the thing at the wall or through my hand, and it would still work. It seems like each generation of IR remotes is getting progressively weaker.

Yay TiVo! (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8324297)

What I LOVE about my TiVo remote is the way every button press is recorded and sent back to the TiVo command complex once an evening!

It's great that my most subtle finger twitches are analyzed and scrutinized in an aggregate fashion, along with millions just like me, in a non-redactable database of unknown extent!

I look forward to the day that my TV-viewing and pause/rewind habits are used as evidence against me in a court case argued by 5-foot sentient robots designed by the government! No sir I did not intend any slight the United States of America when I rewinded the live footage of that bomb going off. And when I muted President Wolfowitz's State of the Union Speech, it was because the videophone rang!

Plus, every button is easy to reach with your thumb. They think of *everything*! Praise TiVo!

I have a small TiVo remote problem (3, Funny)

Rex Code (712912) | more than 10 years ago | (#8324299)

I had a series one Philips TiVo and liked it a lot, so I replaced it with a Pioneer series two TiVo with DVD-R. The remote control is 99% similar, but the button in the lower left that was 'clear' on the Philips (used to kill the guide display and all kinds of other things) is now 'TV power'.

It's been 3 months and I still kill the TV power about every 20 minutes...

RTFA via google (1, Informative)

Ubi_NL (313657) | more than 10 years ago | (#8324312)

God I hate the NYT registration. I must have over 25 different accounts there by now and just keep forgetting them. Anyway: use the google partner-link [google.com]

Re:RTFA via google (3, Informative)

berkut1337 (628381) | more than 10 years ago | (#8324415)

that didn't work for me, try this URL instead:

http://tinyurl.com/2cmny

Re:RTFA via google (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8324450)

You have to click on the link that says
"If the URL is valid, try visiting that web page by clicking on the following link"

stupid moron

Re:RTFA via google (1)

Jugalator (259273) | more than 10 years ago | (#8324611)

Hmm...

Those Google Searches may seem like a good idea. However, only the first page in such articles works.

ATI RemoteWonder (1, Interesting)

darkain (749283) | more than 10 years ago | (#8324320)

i havnt used a TiVo remote, but i can sure as hell say that ATI made one nice remote for PC. hmmm, never thought of the TiVo as a remote before, as i'm a software developer working with several wireless remotes... maybe i will get one a play around with it now.

Re:ATI RemoteWonder (0)

Starve (672909) | more than 10 years ago | (#8324526)

yeah, I like the remote wonder, I loved how out of the box it worked with iTunes, Winamp and most of the other reasons you would buy it however unlike most other peripherals it didnt come plug and play and you had to install the software restart (sobs for lost uptime) and then hope you set it up right. anybody know if theres linux support for it?>

I don't like it. (3, Interesting)

philipsblows (180703) | more than 10 years ago | (#8324331)

I've had my TiVo for about 4 years or so now, and I use the remote as little as possible. I feed my DirecTV box into it and use the remote for that to change the channels, view the DTV guide, etc. Aside from the fact that the remote sucks, I never liked the fact that changing the TiVo channel erases the 30 minute buffer (I don't keep up on TiVo hacks, so maybe there's a way around that one by now). The curvy design is annoying, and it's fallen on the ground so much because of the odd shape that it now makes the old broken-plastic-pieces-inside rattle noise.

My dad has a TiVo (a gift for my mom...) and he actually made a cradle for his so it rests flat on the table next to the couch. He likes to be able to press buttons while it's still on the table, which is all but impossible given the curviness.

For what it's worth, I think the Nokia 6190 [nokiausa.com] (or the non-gsm variants) is one of my all-time favorite designs in this category. I almost wish I could turn that thing into a remote control, as the buttons, display, feel in the hand, weight, and size were just about perfect. IMHO.

Re:I don't like it. (2, Funny)

squaretorus (459130) | more than 10 years ago | (#8324471)

My dad has a TiVo (a gift for my mom...)

Thats why being a dad is great - you can buy things for your spouse to 'show her how much you love her - think of all the cooking shows you can watch now'.

My dad once bought my mum a new AMP for valentines. Nothing to do with the fact his own amp had dies a week earlier of course. And hey - it had a red ribbon on it! Who says romance is dead

Vibrator (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8324338)

"How about you - do you have an emotional attachment to your TiVo remote? Or other well-designed objects?"

Why don't women get such questions?

Future prediction. (2, Funny)

SinaSa (709393) | more than 10 years ago | (#8324340)

We all know a whole bunch of smartass posters are going to post innuendo about well shaped objects and their relation to dildos.

Welcome to the next Wired article, "Geeks like dildos more than they like TiVo remotes".

Future prediction.-Recharge. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8324425)

"Welcome to the next Wired article, "Geeks like dildos more than they like TiVo remotes"."

Well if you're going to put batteries into something.

Good news, but... (5, Interesting)

faust2097 (137829) | more than 10 years ago | (#8324344)

As an interface designer I'm happy on both a professional and personal level to see user-centric design getting press lately. On the other hand I'm afraid that a lot of MBA-types will read articles like this and figure that they can just throw a designer at a problem and expect them to fix everything that's wrong with their product.

Real UI design will not fix fundamental flaws in a product. In fact a good designer will probably uncover problems that no one had noticed before. The reason that Tivo's interface is good is because the entire product was designed from the beginning around being easy to use. I'm willing to bet that there were designers involved in the product from the very beginning.

I recommend that people interested in this sort of thing read Alan Cooper's The Inmates Are Running the Asylum. It's a bit harsh on engineers and I don't buy Cooper's zealousness regarding his techniques but it has a lot of good insight into what can go wrong and how to avoid it.

I also really wish that the press could find a better poster child for our indutry than Nielsen, whose core competency is attention whoring and getting people to pay him thousands of dollars for speaking gigs [something he excels at]. He's got some pretty smart [jnd.org] coworkers [asktog.com] who have actually designed products that changed the way we interact with computers. Nielsen's crown jewel is a kooky Sun skunkworks project.

Good news, but...The design of everyday topics. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8324412)

"I recommend that people interested in this sort of thing read Alan Cooper's The Inmates Are Running the Asylum. It's a bit harsh on engineers and I don't buy Cooper's zealousness regarding his techniques but it has a lot of good insight into what can go wrong and how to avoid it."

The psychology of everyday things is a good one. There's also two others (sorry not home) that deal with handheld devices, one the precursor to the PDA, and the other a PDA. There's actually a lot of material on human-machine design, but the people who do this are much like teachers as far as regard (and pay). I also recommend a good book on when things fail (be it architecture or project failures).

maybe I'm just a troll but... (0, Troll)

segment (695309) | more than 10 years ago | (#8324355)


After TiVo stuck their foot in their mouths when they subliminally announced they monitor what you're doing [cnn.com] , why the heck would I even bother...

Kissing your privacy goodbye... [politrix.org]

Re:maybe I'm just a troll but... (1)

realdpk (116490) | more than 10 years ago | (#8324375)

I know many people that own TiVos, and I've yet to meet one who did not know that this was going on already.

Re:maybe I'm just a troll but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8324378)

Yes, your a troll.

How can anything be "subliminal" when Tivo explain to you on the phone what they are doing and give you the choice of opting in or out????

oh my bad you're right... (0, Troll)

segment (695309) | more than 10 years ago | (#8324423)

a "Contact Information" means information that allows someone to identify or contact you, including, for example: your name, address, telephone number, and e-mail address. Contact Information is a subset of Account Information and is thus linked to your TiVo DVR's Service Number. Your ZIP code by itself, while part of your address, is not Contact Information because your ZIP code alone does not allow someone to identify or contact you. NOTE: If your TiVo DVR is receiving the TiVo Basic service, you are not required to provide TiVo with any Contact Information from that TiVo DVR.

b "Service Information" means information necessary for TiVo to provide service to your TiVo DVR. Examples of Service Information include your software version number, your TV programming source, level of service, and the success status of the last attempted service connection (e.g., periodic call). This information is always transmitted to TiVo when connected to the TiVo servers. TiVo's `Privacy' Policy [akamai.net]

I have to stop and wonder at their claims... They can bill you via identification, but not 'know' who you are?... Ok fine. So what happens when something similar to the RIAA comes out for TV, because after all unless you're blind you would see those annoying FBI warnings that come on when watching movies. Or did you think you didn't need permission to record that. So (of course a what if scenario) what happens when lawsuits start dropping on users of TiVo... "Hey we're you're friends, we would never monitor your habits for targeted advertising and sell millions of users' information for mmillions. We're honest because by golly we're TiVo, and although we monitor what you watch to target advertisers to you we would never give out your info."

Hrmm sure alright, you're right I am a troll. Corporations would never do the wrong thing like sell your information for millions. They all have morals.

Re:maybe I'm just a troll but... (1)

Da VinMan (7669) | more than 10 years ago | (#8324413)

And finally too.. I mean, why the hell should I have to waste time telling them that I do NOT want them to cancel my favorite shows?! They can just use the TiVo statistics and figure it out for themselves. Do I care that they know what I'm watching? Why, yes I do. I'm pretty happy about it actually. Now maybe they'll start paying attention and stop making (and re-airing) crap.

missing buttons? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8324363)

Why has the dark remote in the article got two buttons missing???

Well designed object (0, Troll)

jimbobborg (128330) | more than 10 years ago | (#8324387)

My Katana (forged blade, with traditional mounts). Designed for cutting, great grip. Love my kat.

do you have an emotional attachment to your... (4, Insightful)

warrior (15708) | more than 10 years ago | (#8324389)

...TiVo remote? Or other well-designed objects?

Yes, my second generation iPod :)

Cheers,
Mike

my favourite remote (4, Informative)

boarder (41071) | more than 10 years ago | (#8324390)

I have used the TiVo remote, and it is pretty good... I prefer the remote I have, though.

It is the Radio Shack universal 15-2116 (previously 14-1994, which I also still own). I hacked together a little parallel cable to connect it to my computer and program every single button exactly how I want (called the JP1 hack). You can map any button any way you want, clear out the memory of unused buttons, etc. I have that thing programmed for 6 different things (from the replayTV to the original Apex hacked dvd player to an offbrand tv/vcr combo) and have the buttons so intuitively mapped that I don't ever need to look at it. It also has this weird textured plastic that feels like hardened suede. IR learning and everything else, all for $30.

Scary (3, Funny)

cubic6 (650758) | more than 10 years ago | (#8324391)

From the article:
One TiVo aficionado, Pat Hughes, a software engineer in San Jose, Calif., dressed up his two-month-old daughter as the remote for Halloween in 2002. The costume, which took a week to make, was a painstakingly exact replica, complete with battery compartment in the back. "That's where she went in," he said.
Does anybody else think that this man has some issues? Liking your remote is one thing, but this seems above and beyond.

That's not my TiVO remote! (3, Informative)

dcmeserve (615081) | more than 10 years ago | (#8324392)

I have the Sony remote [stevelionel.com] ...

...You insensitive clods!

By the way, one complaint I've heard (and can see) in the Phillips remote design is the fact that it's too symmetrical front-to-back -- when watching tv in the dark, it's hard to know if you're holding it the right way. Guess they didn't think of turning out the lights when they were doing their ergonomic tests. Whoops!

Ha-hah!

It's ok. (3, Interesting)

teamhasnoi (554944) | more than 10 years ago | (#8324420)

I still have to be a circus contortionist to punch in numbers with one hand. I still get play and pause mixed up; couldn't that be one button?

My biggest issues with my rather new Direct TV tivo are as follows:

The guide is sloooooowwwww. Way slower than the old RCA vanilla reciever.

I can't filter out the channels I don't get, and have no interest in nearly as easily as the old reciever did. The RCA would automatically go through the list; any channels I didn't subscribe to would be removed from the list. I could also scroll through and *see* the channel (Bye bye, Home Shopping networks!) that I was deleting - no trying to decipher the 3 letter acronyms. I was done in 3 minutes with the RCA; with the Tivo, I'd better set an evening aside.

The tivo is recording shows I might like to watch on channels I don't get! Great movie, Tivo! I love the way you mock my poverty by recording two hours of black screen!

No use for the USB ports on the back. I was all excited thinking I could dump some shows right to my Powerbook and burn some DVDs. Nope. Sure I can record to VCR, but why? It's sooo 1995.

No Home Media Option as of yet for Direct TV PVRs. Not that I can't do this with the old PB, but I feel like I'm being shorted. (See previous point)

The remote is far and away the best one I have, but I still need other crappy ones to control stupid features on my TV, Sterio, and VCR.

The first company to devise a 'middleman' remote that waits for a 3 digit code from my tivo remote, then shunts further remote functions to my chosen equip is going to get my money. It could be programmed with the 'left out' functions of all my other remotes (PiP on my 97 Magnavox TV, for instance), then I could put them in a drawer somewhere and forget about them 'till garage sale time.

No reason I can't learn key combos - you have to in order to play any video game these days. Perhaps when I select the VCR it can scream "FATALLITY!" at me.

Re:It's ok. (2, Informative)

steppin_razor_LA (236684) | more than 10 years ago | (#8324492)

Removing channels you dont want to watch can be done -- but it would be really nice if there was a way to do it from the guide.

If you aren't afraid of voiding your warranty, you can install software like MFSFTP, Tyserver, Tystudio, etc and be able to do digital video extraction for archiving onto your file server or DVD.

Depends which one you have.. (4, Insightful)

James_G (71902) | more than 10 years ago | (#8324421)

I have two Tivos (Series 1). A Sony model and a Philips model. I can't stand the Philips remote. [lstar.com] but the Sony remote [stevelionel.com] completely rules. All the commonly used stuff is grouped together. You rarely need to stray beyond the central buttons.

Another problem with the Philips remote is that it feels the same upside down, making it hard to tell which way you're holding it in the dark. With the Sony remote, I can do everything without even glancing at the thing.

On the whole, the Sony remote is among the best remotes I've ever used for anything. No extraneous buttons (you use basically everything), but the frequently used stuff is intelligently placed.

Re:Depends which one you have.. (5, Funny)

geekoid (135745) | more than 10 years ago | (#8324498)

if you have two tivos, and hook them together, then do a live pause on one while the other one is recording, will you rip apart the fabric of time?

This could be espcially bad if you have picture in picture.

Re:Depends which one you have.. (1)

sakusha (441986) | more than 10 years ago | (#8324605)

I'll agree, the Sony remote is way better than the TiVo branded unit. Ergonomics are way better, and it looks better. I'll never give up my Sony TiVo, just because of the remote.

Wow! So ergonomic! So in the drawer it goes. (2, Informative)

Channard (693317) | more than 10 years ago | (#8324434)

At least that's the way it went in my house. I suspect a number of slashdot users - certainly myself - have so many remote controls they replace them with an all-in-one remote. My current cheapy all in one controls my CD player, my TV, sky box, vcr and DVD. And nice as any individual device's remote control may be, I'd rather stick it in a drawer and use the all-for-one instead of having to fumble for more than one remote.

The life and times of a remote. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8324501)

Two problems with cheapy all in ones. One it doesn't operate your device (have a VCR like that). Two doesn't have all the functions that the original did. Now you can get more expensive, but I hope you're not hard on your remotes. $50 poof.

Re:The life and times of a remote. (1)

Channard (693317) | more than 10 years ago | (#8324519)

Actually, my current all in one works a treat. It cost me 9.99 from ToysRUs - I think it was a Medion or something. As for cost, One-For-All actually do a 50.00 remote, which has touch pad buttons, a light up blue surface. Which may look nice, but given the battering most remotes get, I can't see why anyone would buy that and expect it to last.

Nintendo GameCube controller... (2, Informative)

nhaines (622289) | more than 10 years ago | (#8324447)

I've always loved the way my GameCube controller sits perfectly in my hands, and the deep contour of the shoulder buttons. The Control Stick is very precise and sensitive, and isn't too loose. The face button configuration is likewise very intuitive and easy to use without looking at the controller.

Sure, it took a little getting used to for some games. But there were a few games (mostly ports) who did a bad job with controller mappings in the beginning. Any native GameCube game controls beautifully. I prefer the controller to the PS2 controllers. They are also nice controllers, but a little boxy, and I can't stand the analog sticks. Way too loose for me.

That's my attachment. :)

Re:Nintendo GameCube controller... (4, Informative)

Rallion (711805) | more than 10 years ago | (#8324554)

Plus I never needed to look down at the controller the first time I played a GameCube game. Er...square? What's the intuitive location for a square, and how does that differ from circle?

GameCube has A. First. Primary. Big. Then B. Like A, but less important. Then X, to the right, and Y, up. Or, for the letter-impaired, big circle, small circle, bean one, bean two. All of them EEL different, you know where your fingers are. And you always know that no matter what game you play, A means confirm, B means cancel.

Beats the hell out of faintly printed symbols on small, identical buttons.

Of course, that's in addition to what you said about the fantastic comfort level of the thing. Nine out of ten people who say that beautiful thing is awkward to use haven't given it a chance. Though I loved it right out of the box.

Don't take mine though. Take my little sister's MicroCon(?) version. Now THAT controller is too small.

Re:Nintendo GameCube controller... (2, Interesting)

nhaines (622289) | more than 10 years ago | (#8324582)

Yes, not to mention that ever PS2 game I play seems to have a random function for each face button. I'm used to X is action and triangle or circle is cancel. But who knows? It's different each game.

It's been A = confirm, B = cancel since the NES, and although the early games have different shoot/jump features, it's been B = attack and A = jump for most games for years and years.

I like that the GCN virtually forces A is the primary action and B is secondary. It's also easier as far as menus go. A = Confirm. It's GREEN. And B = Cancel. And it's bright RED.

The Z trigger is kinda weird, but it's meant as a sort of "select" button, and it works just great on my Game Boy Player as the display menu trigger. :)

I love my Tivo remote.... (2, Insightful)

steppin_razor_LA (236684) | more than 10 years ago | (#8324483)

I think that Tivo is a triumph in usability. Not only is the remote very comfortable to hold (it is by far my favorite remote), but the GUI on the application itself is extremely well thought out.

I can't count how many times when using Xbox Media Center to watch a movie that I've been frustrated by the many ways that that XBMP falls short of the Tivo experience.

The fast forward / rewind interface is beautiful. Not only is the predictive fast forwarding extremely convenient, but it also shows you where you are in the movie in an equivalent of a scroll bar.

It's a shame that it isn't easier to convert MPEGs into TMFs that can be inserted w/ MFSFTP. If it was, I'd be watching my archived movies on my Tivo instead of in XBMP in a heart beat.

My only complaint (actually My GF's complaint) is that it sometimes is difficult for her in the dark to figure out which side is up and which is down.

Re:I love my Tivo remote.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8324505)

My only complaint (actually My GF's complaint) is that it sometimes is difficult for her in the dark to figure out which side is up and which is down.

It's too easy...

Haven't used it in months (3, Interesting)

hey hey hey (659173) | more than 10 years ago | (#8324500)

While the remote is OK, it suffers the same problem as most other device remotes, it only operates one thing. As soon as you have a VCR, DVD, stereo,... it becomes just another in the clutter. I replaced it with a programmable universal remote (MX-500) a long time ago.

The remote was also annoying as there was no way to extend it, even for something simple you HAVE to do. My idiot TV always resets itself to channel 3 when turned off. So the first thing I want to do is change the channel back to "AV" input (where the nice S-video attached to my Tivo is). There is no way to have the Tivo remote change a channel.

nice remote (2, Interesting)

Jamie Zawinski (775) | more than 10 years ago | (#8324532)

The Tivo remote is definitely one of the nicest remotes I've ever used -- my only complaint about it is that it's too symmetrical. I always end up picking it up pointed the wrong way and rewinding when I meant to fast-forward.

I used to have a Philips Pronto remote (with the LCD screen that looks like a bloated Palm) and it was very flexible, but impossible to use in the dark: you had to look at it to see where the buttons were, since it was just a touch-screen. (Then I dropped a cup on it and the screen cracked, so that was the end of that.)

attachment to well-designed stuff (2, Interesting)

TheLittleJetson (669035) | more than 10 years ago | (#8324537)

of course Apple hardware goes without saying...

Biggest aesthetic triumph i can think of otherwise are the wavebird controllers for nintendo gamecube. the buttons are easy to identify by feel/shape, the layout in general just makes sense (heavily based on playstation, i know...) -- and most importantly, they don't make your hands uncomfortable even if you play for hours on end [and there's plenty of us who do.]

Fabulous remote - except... (1)

Westley (99238) | more than 10 years ago | (#8324588)

The wretched four-way button at the top is awful. When it's used so much for navigation, they should really have made sure that it always goes the way you want it to go (and the right number of times).

Maybe I'm just unlucky, but the number of times it's registered one of up/down as left/right (or vice versa) or double hit (a problem with some of the other buttons too) is no joke - and I've only had it for a couple of weeks!

This is a UK model, so it may have a different build quality from the US models.

In short, it's *designed* wonderfully, but implemented slightly less so.

Badly designed object (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8324590)

Perhaps the worst designed object I have is my dog. Instead of sleeping lengthwise (or on the floor), he insists on sleeping across the foot of the bed, preferable on my shins or calves. 70 pounds of dead wait where my feet want to be is no fun.

Powerbook (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8324592)

Wow... Today I used a Sony Vaio... I had always considered it the Apple equivilant in the PC world... and it really did suck. Not trying to Troll... I just didn't feel the quality that I do with my powerbook. The touchpad, the clickty-click of the keyboard and even the supreme resolution are all things that I love about my powerbook. The Vaio just seemed cheap.

People can hate the expense of Apple products, but they are nice and you pay for the "well-designed" feel to them. My Powwerbook goes everywhere with me. It is the one piece of equipment that I will not part with.

Make the Damn Thing a Learning Remote (2, Interesting)

invckb (551932) | more than 10 years ago | (#8324608)

It would be my first choice for controlling anything if they would only make the damn thing a learning remote.

I find it incredibly frustrating to look at a 'TV Input' button that doesn't control the input on MY TV.

Sony models can learn on volume and mute buttons, and I think tv power, but even that isn't enough.

I switched to the Harmony remote that sort of looks like the Tivo one. It has it's own issues, but I never have to pull out an original remote to do something ordinary.

One of the best remotes out there but... (4, Funny)

gad_zuki! (70830) | more than 10 years ago | (#8324609)

It would be nice if it didn't look like a little black dildo on my bed when its flipped-over. Seriously.
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