Remote controls are one of the many things that would improve if - nay, when - I am elected world leader. The remote industry is completely out of whack, out of touch, and spiraling out of remote control.
My old man loves gadgets, and remotes are definitely part of the gadget family, so we've had our fair share of luxury clickers. The last one we had is pictured on top.
Since when do you need a BA in engineering to figure out how to use one of these things? How far back would you have to travel in time before you could rule the world with this thing? 100 years? 150? I consider myself a decently tech-savvy guy, yet when I pick up the remote in my living room at home I feel like I'm secretly being filmed for the 2011 remake of "Prometheus and Bob". I start sweating, glance around nervously, and I have an overwhelming urge to smash it to pieces before it hurts me or my fellow villagers.
I'd like to be a fly on the wall at a focus group for one of these contraptions.
We are on the 64th floor of an ultra-modern skyscraper in Dubai, at the focus group for the prototype of the $700 "Philips Pronto TSU9600 Multimedia Control Panel" (actual product). The conference room has a long, rectangular table with average-looking men and women seated around it, passing amongst each other the prototype. They have just viewed a short film, directed by James Cameron, detailing the seemingly endless capabilities of the remote. Once the film ends, a young, charismatic douchebag in an impeccable Armani suit claps his hands and the lights come back on, while the TV screen retracts back into the ceiling.
Moderator: Alright, guys, talk to me, speak to me. Tell me how it makes you feel - in your gut, in your soul. John, when your haggard farmer hands touched that sleek chrome, what went through your mind?
John: I felt...
John's gaze is distant as he looks out the window into the tropical paradise. A single tear slowly dances down his face as a hush comes over the room. He smiles, and looks back at the moderator.
The silence is broken by a round of soft applause from the table. John is smiling, wiping his tears away, and hugs the lady sitting next to him.
Moderator: Amazing, John. That's great stuff. Can we get some tissues for John here? Terry, tissues, now. I love the emotion, buddy. That's what we're going for. This remote is going to change lives, people. This remote is going to change...lives. If you don't feel that emotion, then something is wrong with you. Give me more, guys. I want it all. Just shout it out, don't wait for me to call on you. HIT me with it!!
Will: For a moment, I thought I was holding my newborn son! Seven pounds, three ounces, right on the dot!
Nancy: I could feel the raw power being transferred to my body - I almost -...it just makes me want to SCREAM!!
Nancy lets out a scream, followed by maniacal laughter as she rips her blouse off.
Moderator: YES people! YES! Feel that energy!
Tony: The colors on the little screen are so vibrant! It almost makes real life seem dull!
George: I can't give it back, I can't!! NOOO!!
George snatches the Philips Pronto TSU9600 Multimedia Control Panel from the table and makes a mad dash for the exit. Two men in black suits wearing sunglasses tackle him to the ground, taze him into submission, and carry his limp body out of the room.
Moderator: Hey, guys. People, eyes here (snaps fingers). Eyes up front. Focus. George isn't with us anymore. Stay with me here. You need to focus, because this next part is going to be tough, but I need you to try. Try...to give...suggestions.
John: No. No! You can't ask me to do that! I won't do it!
Moderator: John, hey, easy big fella. Eeeeeasy. I'm with you, buddy. Just pretend, pretend you're not one of the lucky people in this room, and you don't know the magic that we here - together - saw today.
Tony: Well...I like how it's too big to use with one hand, so that I can't drink a beer while using it. Can you scooch the channel and volume buttons more toward the center, so the average human thumb can't reach it?
Moderator: Excellent! Terry, write that down. Fantastic, Tony. (Tony is beaming. Nancy proudly pats him on the back.) More?
Nancy: I feel like it's a bit too easy for me to understand. If it's really so technologically advanced, shouldn't I need my husband to explain it to me? I'm just a housewife!
Moderator: That's a great point, Nancy. When the dad has to explain how to use it to each member of his family, it's really going to bring households together - especially if he doesn't even fully understand it himself. Mysterious, isn't it? Terry, let's add some needless features to clog up the main screen a bit. How many buttons do we currently have?
Moderator: That's bullshit. I held a concept remote at an expo in Tokyo that had 70 buttons and weighed more than your right leg. Up it to at least sixty, or I'll have you sent back to the mail room.
Will: It's too cheap. You said you were thinking about opening this at $500 flat? I'm a welder by trade, and I could tell you right now that I could melt this thing and sell it for a G. Why not up it to 7 or 8 hundo, so that it's more expensive than your average 46-inch flat screen?
And on and on they go. If I had the run of things, here's how my perfect remote would be constructed:
- It would have 28 buttons. I won't list them all (if you think that's too many, remember, numbers 0-9 take up over a third of them), but these stalwarts are getting kicked to the curb: Aux, Help (if you can read, you won't need help with this baby. Besides, stop pressing "help" buttons anywhere in your life, they never help), FAV (just memorize the channel; my 8 year old brother does it, so can you), and all the PIP-related buttons.
- No screen. The remote is an accessory for the fucking TV, it doesn't need to be its own TV.
- Long and slender. I should be able to wrap my thumb and index finger around it. I want you to be able to simultaneously switch between skinemax and Monday Night Football, while drinking a beer and/or fondling yourself.
- Lightweight. If I burn a single calorie picking it up, it's disqualified. If somebody broke into my house and I thought "alright, my shotgun is all the way upstairs, but I can stun him with the clicker," then you're DQ'd.
- $10. Even a sawbuck is pushing it - the only reason I'm willing to pay that much is because of it's beautiful simplicity.
We're in a recession, people. Time to trim the fat and come out more efficient on the other end. Socially liberal, fiscally oblivious, remote control conservative. That's how I roll.
How would you design your own dream remote?