The Poorest Designed Most Indispensable Gizmo

Tivo’s remote, lest I keep you in suspense, is the most indispensable gadget I have around the house. It is also the one I use the most and the one that gives me the biggest frustration.
Only until tonight, was I able to determine why I love my Tivo remote but hate it so much.
It’s a crappy design.

It’s not me. It’s the remote. It’s always on the floor when I go to look for it. On the floor, between the recliner and the end table, just baaaarely out of my reach.

It’s a crappy design.

It looks good, it works good, but it’s a crappy design.

It’s bad design because:

  • it’s too light weight. When I put it down on top of the TV Guide, USA Today, and an empty Diet Coke can lying on it’s side, the remote slowly slides off.
  • it’s too round. Obviously the ends are round. But what you can’t see, is the bottom is round with a couple concave spaces.

I’m not going to kvetch about the size of the buttons, because I had those memorized within the first four hours of non-stop operation getting the remote to work with the TeeVee.

If the Tivo remote designers had used the damn thing in real life, the design flaws would have been painfully obvious.

It’s fixable:

  1. Make the thing a cube. Cubes are the most stable shape in the environment. This is why so many things in nature are cubes. Ice cubes, sugar cubes, cubicles, Rubik’s, and so forth. Stable is good.  If I put the cube on top of the TV Guide, USA Today, and empty Coke can, it will: immediately indicate it’s stability by starting to fall, which I can then correct, or it will not fall.
  2. Make that sucker heavy. It’s nice that it only takes AAA batteries, but it could run on 4 D Cell monsters because weight is good. Or Tivo could just add some mercury or lead in the bottom.
  3. Put the same buttons on five of the six sides. OK, I’ll go for making them bigger too since we’re redesigning. And lighted from the inside – color coded. Hell, since we got all that power from the 4 D Cell monsters, let’s go for some sound effects too!

I did a mock-up so if any of you slide-rule geeks want to take the project forward, we’ll be on the same page.

Ok, it’s not a cube, so sue me – it’s a prototype. I have the ideas, not the engineering. Sheesh, some people complain about anything.

UPDATE: Now this is what I’m talking about! It’s not a cube, but it’s a gel remote! When I sit it on the edge of a box of candy, it slowly conforms to the surface. As soon as I pick it up, it senses my warmth, becomes rigid and the internal light turns off.


Flaccido Tivodomingo

UPDATE: they still didn’t get it right, they took a way the buttons and it’s not as round, but they still are focusing on what it can do not how user friendly it is. Idjits.
UPDATE 2: CES 2009 revealed a sound activated remote. This will be well received in households where the remote is shared by two individuals who like to have sex. (not) When she hollars “Oprah” he will respond “Max after Midnight” or he will shout “NFL” and she will say “PBS.” Sheesh. It’s getting worse.


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The Poorest Designed Most Indispensable Gizmo — 4 Comments

  1. I can’t tell whether or not this is a joke, but I totally disagree. The peanut shape fits perfectly in the palm of my hand. Going to a cube would be a terrible decisions, especially given how many times you’ll use the remote in the course of an evening.

    As far as the weight goes, I’ve never had problems keeping it on top of my coffee table. One of the things I really like about the remote is that because one end is heavier then the other, you can tell which way to hold it even in the dark.

    I would like to see more neutral buttons that you could program other gadgets into, but overall, I think it’s the best remote out there.

    Davis Freeberg´s last blog post..Sway

  2. @Davis: Noooo, I don’t joke about essentials of life. I am deadly serious. We disagree and that is fine, but we can still argue. 🙂
    Peanut shape? Name anything useful in life that is a peanut shape? Other than peanuts and the infinity sign!

  3. I’m ok with disagreeing, but since we can still argue I’d like to point out that not only has TiVo’s remote been obsessed over by the fanboys (myself included), but they’ve also won awards for the design from CES. There are a couple of good articles out there describing their decision making process for the design and the evolution of the remote over time.

    As far as peanut shaped devices go, the hour glass has proven to be useful even if it’s obsolete now. The peanut is also one of the most popular designs for swimming pools and if you take a look at the “ideal” measurements for women, it shapes up to be a peanut. With so many useful things taking on the peanut design, I’m left to wonder what peanut shaped devices aren’t useful?

    Davis Freeberg´s last blog post..Sway

  4. @all readers: hint – don’t pick a fight with a fanboy! They will KILL ya.

    @ Davis Freeberg: Holy Moly. That NYT story from 2004 was awesome. All that time and energy! It was really interesting. But it appears there never was any real world testing.

    “Mr. Newby himself is considering some improvements, like enabling the remote to stand up on the coffee table. ”

    The cube is coming!

    And Gizmodo likes it? That’s like saying MacWorld is fond of Apple.

    Pshaw on your peanut shapes. Pools? Cubes. Hourglass? not a peanut, too thick on the ends, too thin in the middle, Women? You been looking at too many photoshopped images, dude.