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Expensive, difficult, slightly dangerous, not particularly effective... I'm on a roll.
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Okay, I'm a programmer and have chronic wrist/hand pain (like
a lot of us do, unfortunately). So I pay attention to how much
effort any given task takes, and stabbing at buttons on, e.g.,
television remote controls is a waste of perfectly good health -
- besides, does anybody really think their
remote is hot stuff?
So I propose something that isn't such an egregious violation of
human interface design standards: a spherical remote whose
hemispheres rotate independently (put one palm on the
northern hemisphere, one on the southern, and twist). There
are faint little notches within it so that when you twist it, it
"catches" at each point -- gives it discrete values rather than a
full-analog-type motion. There's a small sensor that detects
which hemisphere is "up".
There are a few buttons just north and south of the remote's
"equator"; cup your hands around an invisible softball -- the
buttons are roughly where your fingertips lie.
Say the northern hemisphere is on top -- when you twist it
(holding the southern steady), it cycles through every channel
you have. It has an accelerometer built into it, so if you twist
it real fast you can jump, say, from channel 1 to 50 in a
quarter turn; but if you twist it slowly through the same
physical range, you might only go from 1 to 20.
When the southern hemisphere is on top, it cycles through
your favorite channels. There's a button that toggles a given
channel into/out of your favorites: if the northern hemisphere
is on top and the current channel isn't a favorite yet, hitting
the button adds it; if the southern hemisphere is on top and
the current channel is a favorite, hitting the button removes
You can have a modal button that, when pressed, makes
twisting the remote adjust the volume. Some other button
could set the remote to control your VCR or DVD player --
obviously, twisting is FF/RW; w/DVD, maybe the northern
hemisphere governs FF/RW and the southern skips through
scenes. In the remote's setup stuff (menus handled a la
Apple iPod's wheel, perhaps), you should be able to set the
sensitivity of the accelerometer (I'd set mine very high).
There are plenty of other buttons (what, five total per
hemisphere?) to handle special tasks like power on/off, mute,
etc. Have a sexy cradle for the thing, too -- maybe that's
where it gets charged. You could get nuts and have the
remote sense whether or not it's being held (test for heat?
conductivity? you could do it) so that you could still toss the
thing on the couch and not have it change channels on you.
Anyway, IMO this has lots of sex appeal over a normal remote
and is a huge leap forward in terms of ergonomics. Werd.
This could be you
[thumbwax, Oct 17 2004]
[my face your, Oct 17 2004]
"Ergonomic" remote control with programmable thumbpad
[pottedstu, Oct 17 2004]
||Forgot the most important part: my brilliant friend Kevin
birthed this and we brainstormed implementation ideas
and the featureset one night. Props to K.
||//There are a few buttons just north and south of the remote's "equator"; cup your hands around an invisible softball//
||- you mean I have to put down my beer to operate the remote? (-)
||good point -- not necessarily. the notched feel when
rotating the thing should be really quite faint -- and
perhaps tuneable. maybe the thing's sitting next to you
on the couch and you reach over, roll it so the desired
hemisphere is up, and just twist by using the friction
against the couch to hold the underside. maybe the
thing's rubbery to give it extra stick in that situation.
||You had me until //sex appeal//and won me back with //Werd.//
||Is this really going to be better for those with problems with wrist or finger movement? It is possible to operate a conventional remote control with minimal hand movement (by moving your whole arm), but this sphere requires fine adjustment and precise wrist movement.
||There are special remote controls with large buttons for those who find ordinary models too fiddly, and placing a conventional control on a flat surface makes it even easier to use.
||This may be sexy, but surely not ergonomic.
||[pottedstu] No, actually it is lots better for those with
carpal tunnel, cubital tunnel, and various other similar
syndromes. The problem with normal remotes is having
to use a couple fingers to stab at something -- this caused
me immense pain after my wrists went the first time.
||But loosely cradling something that fits the hand and
whose twist sensitivity you could adjust would be really
easy on the hands. For the most part, you could do it
with your palms (or one if the thing's sitting on the
couch), and you can lever your elbows to make it so that
your wrists can be kept perfectly straight, if need be.
||Increasing button size is more often done for improved
readability or people with a palsy, but it doesn't change
the basic stab/press required.
||Anyone have ideas for what the buttons should be?
Eventually some electrical engineer will straggle along
and the three of us (he, K., and i) can try out a prototype.
||This is excellent! Repetitive motion syndrome or no, it's a cool design concept, and I'll be susrprised if Sharper Image or Bang & Olafson aren't rolling this out as I type.
||I lose my remote often, too, and I bet if it were spherical, it would be easier to find (it's usually under a magazine or something).
||Plus, think of Woody Allen's "Sleeper."
||I was thinking of Pokemon.
||MacBelland: my concern is that such a motion is actually pretty awkward. As I understand it, you are having to pivot at your wrist to turn this, in a motion similar to opening a jar, which is not the most natural of movements for anyone.
||The status of the whole ergonomic "advantage" should probably be reduced to a marketing element, even though it's the impetus for the idea. Regardless of whether it's good for you, it's cool design (except it might tend to roll away).