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.
Human society didn't really enter the modern era until we invented the remote control, because let's face it, no one wants to get up. The freedom to loaf around is an important part of life, and Universal Remote brings that to your PC. With today's update, it's much more attractive and useful. Unlike you... because of all that loafing around.
Well, that didn't take long. Just a couple of hours after the end of Google's I/O keynote, the Android TV remote control app has burst on to the Play Store. Download it now to control all the Android TV devices in your home! Which are none. Because Android TV isn't released yet. And won't be until the fall.
If you're wondering why Google even bothered to put the app on the Play Store in the first place, it's because it's designed for the developer kits currently on display at I/O. Since it seems to work with most current Android devices, it will presumably stick around until the release of Android TV in the fall.
The Hulu Plus app is perfectly capable of pumping out videos on its own to a small screen. With a Chromecast plugged into your TV, it's even able to cast content out to the big screen as well. Now the app is gaining a feature that will give it even more control over your viewing experience. Starting with the latest update, Hulu Plus is capable of becoming a remote control for Hulu content streaming from the Xbox One, PlayStation 3, or PlayStation 4.
The functionality should be relatively straightforward to use. After launching the Hulu Plus app, your game console should be detected automatically (as long as it's turned on and signed into the same Hulu account).