Re-Imagining the Remote: Q&A with Caavo Co-Founder Andrew Einaudi
Let’s talk about the remote control.
For something that is supposed to help us control our entertainment, it often feels like it is the one in control. This living room mainstay is often clunky and confusing – not to mention it has a tendency to wander off only to be found two months later. In the fridge. Under the rotten lettuce.
Shouldn’t there be a better way? We raise our hands and resoundingly say YES.
When we set out to re-imagine the TV-watching experience, the remote control was at the top of our list. We wanted to build a more functional and simplified universal remote control - one that consumers wouldn’t need to place tape over unused buttons. One that is controlled with the sound of our voice. One that is beautifully designed. And yes, one that isn’t so easy to lose.
We sat down with Andrew Einaudi, Caavo’s co-founder, CEO, and a longtime product designer, to talk about the Caavo voice-controlled remote and how it came to be. Andrew has been part of the design teams for Slingbox, Jawbone and the Xbox One, so he knows a few things about smart product design.
Q: What inspired the look of the Caavo voice-controlled remote?
A: Interestingly enough, we found inspiration in the Japanese geta sandal, which is constructed of wood and elevated to protect both the shoe and its wearer from the elements. We also were inspired by its simplicity. We knew right off the bat that we did not want to build another overly-complex universal remote control with lots of buttons, confusing screens and interfaces that would get lost in a sea of remotes. We used quality materials and a streamlined design to emphasize the buttons that consumers use the most: power and volume.
Q: How was that inspiration incorporated into the overall design?A: The structure and materials found in the Japanese geta sandal are used to strengthen the wood casing surrounding the remote and protect the remote’s electronics that are nestled within. We chose to incorporate a signature metal into the design of the remote, including the Caavo (home) button from which all navigation on the TV takes place. We also created a metal “foot” on the Caavo remote. This gives it posture and attitude, but it also serves two very functional purposes: it makes it easier to pick up off a coffee table and it doesn’t allow the remote to fall into the black hole of couch cushions!
Q: What were the key functionalities the Caavo team felt were vital for a better user experience in a universal remote control?
A: We emphasized use of quality materials that felt warm and inviting to hold, while aiding in the overall functionality of the remote. We streamlined the number of buttons on the remote and also built in primary and secondary functions so our power users wouldn’t lose the capabilities they’re used to. We wanted to ensure that the remote, even though it is primarily voice-controlled universal remote, could be used as a standard remote as well.
Q: In your mind, what was the most important or must-have feature that needed to be included and why?
A: We had two key features in mind. The first was voice-control. We all love entertainment, and we want to be able to just say what we want to watch, without wasting time channel surfing or switching between apps and devices to find our shows. The second was the creation of a home button, which we nestled up front on the face of the remote for easy identification, and it allows users to navigate in and out of the Caavo experience.
Q: Do you see a day when there will not be a need for a remote?
A: Anything is possible - we know technology will continue to evolve, but it is personally difficult for me to image TV-watching without a remote. It gives us a means of quiet, deliberate control over what we want to watch.
Q: What is your personal favorite look or feature of the Caavo voice-controlled remote?
A: That’s an easy one: the metal foot. It elevates the remote to give it posture and attitude among a sea of black remotes. The foot has a wonderful functional feature as well - it ensures the remote won’t get lost between couch cushions.
Q: Any interesting iterations or design ideas that didn't make it into the final product?
A: The remote our customers use today is actually the second design version of the Caavo voice-controlled universal remote. The first version had volume buttons on the side. It also did not feature an explicit power button, or light … ultimately we decided it didn’t read as a device that could control the entire TV experience - power volume and all.
Q: Anything from a design/functionality perspective you knew you didn't want to include?
A: Backlighting. This was controversial within our design team, but having to look away from the TV (and down at the remote) to see the buttons feels broken. Instead we built capacitive touch into the keys. Simply rest a finger on a button, and a hint about its function pops up on the TV screen so you can keep your eyes on what you're watching.