Think Flood’s Red Eye: bye bye remotes, Hello Smart phone!

I recently had a chance to test out Think Floods Red Eye device. It is a small device that acts as an iPhone/iPod touch dock as well an IR blaster that can control any device with an IR remote. The way it works is you find the ideal place in your room for it (which is not hard to find since it has three IR blasters inside) and then hook it up to your WiFi network. Then, you can control all the devices in that room with your smart phone!

Unboxing:
This Red Eye come packaged up in a small black box that will immediately remind you of something you would buy from Apple, but in a black box instead of a white one. It also opened like the older iPod boxes (You know, the ones before the iPhone came out). Once you take the top off you are greeted by the dock/IR blaster just waiting to be played with. Under that were two more little black boxes that were quite hard to get out; I actually ripped one getting them out. One contained dock inserts so that you can snugly fit your iOS device in it and the other housed the AC adapter needed to power the device.

Super Sleek box

Set up and configuration:
Now for the fun part – using it for the first time. Finding the power port on it was actually more challenging than I thought it would be. There is a port on the back on the device that I mistakenly took for the power port when I first tried to plug it in. It didn’t fit so I knew it was the wrong place. I noticed a bunch of little cord paths on the bottom of the device all leading to the center but at a glance you can’t really see any power port. It wasn’t until I throughly inspected the device that I found the power port. Excited and ready to go I plugged it in. One unfortunate thing about this is it needs AC power (which you really cant get around). This is not that big of a deal but I had to figure out how to route some power to my coffee table since that was best place to position the device. Now it was time to start really playing with it so I looked at the quick start guide. It only had directions for an iOS device but the site mentions its compatible with Android too. I pulled out my Thunderbolt and looked at the available WiFi networks. I was looking for one called Red Eye but didn’t see it. I tried resetting the device just in case. No luck. Getting a bit frustrated, I went to go get my Nexus One (the phone I use for development). On the Nexus, I saw the Red Eye network but could not connect to it. Since I was out of Android devices to use, I figured it was time to try my wife’s iPod touch.

Using the iPod was the turning point in the set up. I was able to connect to the network and then configure the Red Eye device to use my home WiFi. Once connected to my network, I could connect to the device with my Thunderbolt and Nexus One. I soon found more Android woes though. Try as hard as I could, I was not able to add an activity to the system with the Android app. After the initial set up experience I had, I got the iPod again and was able to add the activity

I also have a Logitech Harmony remote at home that I use, so I will be comparing the configuration of the Red Eye to the configuration of a Harmony remote. Adding an activity was easy enough, you choose a name for it and then you get a configuration screen. The configuration part is where it gets a bit tricky. You can add some devices (just like the Harmony), but then it gets a little more challenging. You enter the brand of the device and then you are prompted with a bunch of code sets. You pick one, hoping that its the right one, and then you get a few buttons to test before downloading the whole set. Once you find the correct set, the Red Eye will download it and you will not need to enter the device again. For comparison, I think the Harmony wins when it comes to adding a device because you enter the brand AND the model number. Logitech has already done the code set testing and will just download the correct set automatically. Another downside is that the Red Eye database is not quite as extensive as I would hope (yet – I say that because this device is very promising). For example, I have a 3rd party IR receiver for my HTPC and there were no codes for it through Red Eye where Logitech did have them already. I had to teach the commands to the Red Eye which is very tedious (the process is also tedious on the Harmony).

Onto the next step of configuration! After you finish adding your devices, you then need to configure your remote screen for the activity. This is where the Red Eye has the most potential to beat out other remote products. Sure the Harmony is cool, but it has standard buttons plus a few (depending on the model) soft buttons. With the Red Eye, you get to add ANY button you want and put it wherever you think is most convenient for you. You can even modify the size of button. For example, if you basically only use the channel and volume buttons, you can make them huge and other buttons you only use on occasion can be small. This is really cool but unfortunately takes a long time to set up and get just the way you want it. Also, the default layout you get may not link to the correct devices either. For example, the first activity I set up was Watch Netflix on Xbox. I added the devices, then added the custom delays (Turn on TV and xbox, wait 5 seconds then change TV input to xbox, wait 5 more seconds move xbox to Netflix app and hit enter). By the way, did I mention being able to add custom commands like that is really cool!? (Yes, the Harmony allows you to do that as well.) Now onto the layout. It defaulted to giving me volume and some navigation controls. Cool! Now all I need is the A and B buttons and I am all set! I added those in and decided to give it a try. The TV turned on as did the Xbox. The TV moved to the Xbox input and the xbox moved over to the Netflix app. Awesome! Now it was my turn to control the xbox with my smart phone. I hit the directional controls and nothing happened. I looked closer and noticed that the directional controls were controlling my TV not the Xbox. Once I fixed that, I was good to go. In contrast, the Harmony asks a few more questions than the Red Eye does which gives a better default key mapping. In both, you can customize everything, but at the current rendition of both I found that the Harmony takes considerably less time to set up.

Usage:
Once you spend the time to get this properly set up the way you want, it is AWESOME and works fine on any Android and iOS device. You can have everything just the way you want it. I did find that fitting all the buttons you may want on the screen all at once can be a challenge. The layout will scroll (and will need to if you want all the buttons from each device you are controlling on it) but can be a bit of a pain to get to. This can be solved by using a tablet. More screen space means more room for buttons!

Summary:
This device is quite cool and looks very promising, but still has a little ways to go to make it a bit easier and less stressful to configure. The configuration could stand to take some hints from the way the Harmony remotes do it (but they are not perfect either). That being said, once you take the time configure this device is it really cool. It can help in a situation such as you just got into bed but realized you forgot to turn your TV off in a different room. No problem! Just grab your phone and shut it all down.

 

Pros:

  • You can easily add another controller to the mix with another smart phone (which can be good or bad depending on your situation).
  • You can control your device from any room in the house (or from any internet connection if you forward the correct ports to it from your router).
  • Fully customizable screens
  • Fully customizable actions and activities
  • Also an iPhone/iPod charging dock
  • Once configured works with both Android and iOS.

 

Cons:

  • Proper set up can only be done on an iOS device (at least that is what I found)
  • Configuration takes forever
  • Getting a layout that you like is tedious
  • Need to route power to wherever you put the device which can lead to an ugly power cord on your floor
  • $200

t3chniq’s final verdict: At a price of $200, the Red Eye is a useful and interesting device for someone who has the money to spend. However, it might be more than you want to pay for the benefits it gives you. An entry level Harmony remote is just $30-50 and will do a similar thing, with some of the set up process being less of a hassle. If you want FULL control, however, and have the patience to configure it just the way you want (and have an iOS device) it can be well worth the money.