As someone who's kind of exhausted by the amount of Star Wars promotional material that's being vomited into our culture at the moment, I have to admit that the remote control BB-8 from Sphero is pretty awesome. Because even toys need sequels now, this year we're getting the original adorable droid in remote control form: R2-D2. Hasbro is planning on releasing a similar toy, complete with all the smartphone connection goodies. Here's the official app for it.
So far Samsung's plus-sized Galaxy View tablet has been given a custom CNN news app and a sort of bulletin board photo app, both of which are exclusive to the device. But Samsung isn't finished yet. Today they published a third app that, if not exclusive to the 18.4-inch tablet itself, is certainly meant to be used exclusively with it. It's a remote control app that lets you operate pretty much every input on the device via a Bluetooth-connected Android phone.
The official first-party remote control for NVIDIA's SHIELD Android TV set-top box is great. It uses more or less the same mini-remote design as the Nexus Player, Fire TV, Roku, and any number of similar streaming boxes, but it's made out of metal, the buttons are backlit, it has a built-in headphone jack for private listening, and it recharges via a MicroUSB port.
Smart home technology is great. The Nest Learning Thermostat, Phillips Hue, and Sonos sound systems are wonderful products that make life more convenient, automated, and beautiful. These technologies are great, but many components in a smart home are controlled by applications from a smart phone or tablet. Having to pull your phone out of your pocket and unlock it every time you want to turn off the lights while watching a movie can be a little annoying.
Fortunately, the Logitech Harmony Home Control makes running a smart home a little easier. The remote works great for controlling your media center, but it also can be programmed to control many different home automation devices.
Looking for something to control absolutely everything in your entertainment center, plus your RF-enabled refrigerator? Then unfortunately you're going to have to cough up some dough. But if you hurry and head over to Amazon, you can do it for considerably less: the retailer is selling the Logitech Harmony Ultimate Remote for $199.99. That's pretty insane for a remote, even one with customizable controls and a touchscreen, but it's actually $150 off of the retail price.
Koush makes a lot of neat Android apps like Helium Backup and AllCast, but what's next? It's a thing called Vysor that will let you easily control your phone from Chrome. An early beta of the app is available in the Chrome web store, and it's already surprisingly solid for something that isn't even done yet.
Unified Remote is a remarkably powerful app for remotely controlling the functions of your PC. (Not your TV, unless you have an IR port.) The last beta release of the app, which used the frustrating Google Groups testing system, implemented remote control support via an Android Wear app. Now you can get that Wear support in the standard Play Store version, no beta opt-in necessary. You'll need the full version, a $4 add-on, to access the Wear app.
Using the customization tool in the phone version of Unified Remote, simple commands from the various hardware and web service functions of the Unified Remote server can be accessed on your wrist.
Update: Want a slightly older model for an even better price? The Harmony Smart Control package is $79.99, fifty dollars off, and includes most of the same functionality. It's lacking the included buttons on the larger remote for home automation, which won't matter much if you don't have any compatible hardware and/or you intend to use your smartphone anyway. This deal also disappears after today.
You can control your Chromecast with your Android phone. You can control a Roku, Android TV, game console, or even your cable box with your phone. But unless you own one of the Samsung or HTC devices with a built-in infrared port, you probably can't control a TV set or a DVD or Blu-Ray player without reaching for some stone age hunk of plastic.
Home automation of any kind is a pretty tough market in which many products generally create more problems than they can solve. However, there are a rare few gadgets that don't aim too high or too low, and the results can be profoundly useful to the right customers. A new campaign on Kickstarter might just be primed to hit that sweet spot with a product called AnyMote, a remote-controlled universal remote. It aims to put your phone in charge of just about anything with an IR receiver, and even several Wi-Fi and Bluetooth devices (as support is added).
The project was initiated by a fairly well-known developer, Color Tiger, the creator of Smart IR Remote.
Remember those awesome mini-drones that Parrot showed off at CES way back in January? It looks like the Rolling Spider and Jumping Sumo are on sale now, at Brookstone and the Apple Store at least, for $100 and $160 respectively. And if you bought the drone, you'll want something to control it with. Enter the FreeFlight 3 app, made specifically for controlling Parrot's new toys. It's a free download, though you'll need an Android 4.0 device to install it.
The Rolling Spider is the little flying drone, which carriers a pair of wheels on its chassis that are light enough to fly with.