I’ve had an Apple TV for a few days now; the user interface, speed and content are all amazing. It’s all great except for one part: The Apple remote, which quite frankly, sucks.
Rumors have circulated before that Apple was working on a new version that would be far more useful. In fact, patents filed over the past few years point to a device that would have similarities to the Nintendo Wii gaming console’s controller, the Wiimote. That device uses motion (along with button clicks) to manipulate action on the screen. A newer patent, uncovered by AppleInsider, suggest Apple is still very much at work on a similar concept for its Apple remote.
If you’ve bought an Apple computer sometime in the past few years you likely have one of the old Apple remotes. It’s very small (it almost looks like the original iPod Shuffle) and has a whopping three buttons (though the circular one is technically 4 different buttons based on the position you click). It’s classic Apple: Style and simplicity. It works well for simple interfaces, such as Apple’s Front Row software that allows users to interact with media on their computer from a distance (with the remote).
However, for the Apple TV, which is getting more and more complex as it adds new features, this tiny remote is frustrating. Not only is it cumbersome to navigate the basic menu, finding movies by scrolling through titles takes forever. And don’t even get me started about trying to type using it.
The Apple TV needs something like a Wiimote, where you can point at the screen and click on what you want, and it’s good that Apple seems to realize that. But this latest patent goes farther and suggests that it will improve upon the Wiimote design by distinguishing the infrared light sources the device is supposed to pick up from random ones that are placed around many house (such as light bulbs, candles, etc…). This should lead to a much more accurate three dimension remote.
If you’re in the mood for some technical explanation, here’s what AppleInsider pulled out of the patent:
“In one embodiment of the present invention, the predetermined light sources can be disposed in asymmetric substantially linear or two-dimensional patterns. Here, a photodetector can detect light output by the predetermined light sources and stray light sources, and transmit data representative of the detected light to one or more controllers. The controllers can identify a derivative pattern of light sources from the detected light indicative of the asymmetric pattern in which the predetermined light sources are disposed.”
However it’s done, I just hope that Apple releases something like this soon. The Remote app for the iPhone to control the Apple TV is an improvement over the regular Apple remote, but it too is getting overwhelmed by the abilities of the Apple TV.
Another side bonus of a Wiimote for the Apple TV could be gaming. I still think it won’t be long before we see App Store apps make their way to the Apple TV, and a new motion capable remote would be perfect for playing gaming applications.