New TV remote gets to the Point

Several consumer electronics publications and blogs earlier this month were quick to play up AT&T's Point Anywhere RF-based TV remote control device. The Point Anywhere, as the name suggests, allows you to control your U-verse-connected TV from just about anywhere in your home because it enables channel changing via radio frequency, rather than the traditional remotes that only work by line-of-sight.

How quickly many observers and reviewers jumped to the same conclusion: You can now change channels while you are sitting on the toilet. This assumes, of course, that you are one of those poor souls who doesn't yet have a TV in your bathroom.

For about $50, it might seem like a funny and unnecessary capability, but it also shows that AT&T continues to think about how the broadband home network is evolving, and about the role that wireless technology will play in that evolution. The Point Anywhere development comes after AT&T has made strides in its vision for the networked home with its Total Home DVR capability and with its reported tests of WiFi-based home network technology from Ruckus Wireless. Of course, AT&T isn't the first or only carrier making these strides, and for now, they seem more like a series of separate pursuits than a comprehensive and integrated vision, but they are steps forward nonetheless.

Remote control devices may be as much a part of that vision as any other device. For example, Motorola made news earlier this year as it worked on a TV remote with integrated wireless connectivity and telephony features.

Also, while we observers and pundits try to think up more humorous scenarios in which an RF-based TV remote control would be used (like when you lock yourself out of your house with your remote--who hasn't done that?), the Point Anywhere development addresses another interesting trend in the evolution of set-top box technology. There has been some speculation that TV STBs won't be around much longer in their traditional form. STBs mounted on the backs of TVs or otherwise downsized and hidden away in walls and home theater cabinetry could become the norm, and the Point Anywhere device seems made to await further advances in that evolution.

In a potential future scenario, you could be watching TV, changing channels, getting TV-based caller ID messages, stopping and starting DVR content at your whim, switching a movie you ordered on demand over to your PC in the other room, and all the electronics may be hidden away somewhere, with the streamlined, cinematically-scaled TV of your dreams as the only thing visible in your field of vision--unless, of course, nature is calling.-Dan

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