LAS VEGAS — With the exception of the Logitech Harmony Elite, there aren't any universal remotes that can control smart home devices in addition to your entertainment center. That could all change with Sevenhugs' Smart Remote, a wonderfully minimalist device that will let you control virtually anything you point it at.
Available for preorder in the next few months, and hopefully shipping by September, the remote uses a combination of built-in location sensors as well as special screw-in light sockets to know where it is, and where things are in your room. Then, after you program it using a smartphone app, the remote will remember where things are in the room, and change the controls on its screen to match what you're pointing at.
The remote itself is small and lightweight, slightly larger than the remote that comes with the Apple TV, and thinner than the Roku's remote. The Sevenhugs remote is devoid of any buttons; instead, it has a large touchscreen running the length of the device. The display on the screen will change depending on what you're pointing the remote at. For instance, if it's aimed at your TV, the remote will display TV controls. If it's pointed at a light, you'll see lighting controls on the screen. In an even neater twist, a company rep pointed the remote at a window, and the remote showed the current weather conditions.
Although it's still in development, the remote can control Philips Hue lights, the Nest Learning Thermostat, and Sonos systems, with more to come. Pricing has yet to be finalized, but a representative said that it should end up less than $200.
As far as universal remotes go, I have a feeling that many users will still prefer to have physical buttons they can locate by feel when they want to change the channel in a dark room. The Sevenhugs Smart Remote is most intriguing for its hyper-accurate location-aware features which have a lot more potential applications than being able to turn your lights on and off. Still, it's a very practical first step.