Will Someone Please Answer the Remote?

You’ve got a short stack of remote controls in your lap as you’re watching television, and the telephone rings. Now you have to shuffle around and find the phone handset to answer the call. Well, if Motorola has its way, your pile of electronic controls could be pared down to a single device.

At CES 2009, Motorola introduced its R331 universal remote control. Designed to work with the company’s set top boxes, it also can be programed to work with “most consumer electronic remote controls” (according to the product spec sheet). Unlike most remotes, however, it comes with its own recharging base unit that also contains a convenient clock display. The remote also has a speaker, which is used to make a sound when you activate the “lost remote” function on the base unit. (That sure would be handy to have in our house!)

But according to a report in Multichannel News, Motorola may have bigger plans for the device. Add a microphone, and you’ve got a remote control that can respond to voice commands. And now that you have a microphone and a speaker in the unit, why not add the circuitry that will let you use it as a wireless telephone handset as well? According to the article, Motorola is working with Microsoft to add Caller ID functions to the system so the information on incoming calls would be displayed on the TV screen.

I certainly can see the appeal of a single remote/phone handset, but I can also envision possible problems. For example, if you’re watching with someone else and you get a call, you might go to another room so the other person can keep watching the show while you take the call. If this means that you’re walking off with the remote, however, that could be inconvenient.

What other functions can you imagine adding to your TV’s remote? Share your ideas with me now at alfred@hdtvprofessor.com.