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RedEye gives you a universal iPhone remote for your home entertainment center

ThinkFlood has released RedEye, their universal remote add-on for iPhone and iPod touch. The RedEye remote is a combination of hardware and software that turns your iPhone into a truly universal remote control for IR-based devices. I received an advance unit to take for a spin, and tested it out with my (modest) home theater setup and an iPhone 3GS.

The RedEye hardware is retailing at $188US. I mention this early because the price point affected my perception of the product quite a bit. From the packaging to the construction of the unit, it doesn't really feel like high-end hardware -- not the way my Harmony 1000 remote does. Granted, it's still almost half the cost of the Harmony 1000 and less than half of the 1100, but the lightweight, plastic unit just doesn't pull off the aesthetics or feel of a $200 piece of hardware.

The hardware portion of the RedEye is an IR-blaster with a built-in charging dock for the iPhone/iPod touch. It creates a bridge between Wi-Fi (from the iPhone/iPod) and IR devices. The base unit has a fairly good IR range, but no built-in options for extending it. A repeater may be required in some circumstances, especially if your equipment is behind closed cabinet doors. The device has built-in Wi-Fi broadcast, and can connect to your iPhone/iPod right out of the box. You get better performance (and easier configuration), however, by modifying the setup to use an existing Wi-Fi signal in your home. Multiple units can be used to cover additional rooms and control them all from a single iPhone/iPod, and multiple iPhones/iPods can connect to a single RedEye unit. Configurations are stored in the unit itself, so software modifications made on one iPhone/iPod are available to any other iPhone/iPod.

The RedEye software [iTunes link] is a free download on the App Store. It detects RedEye units on the current network, and allows you to add multiple rooms, IR devices, commands and activities. Devices are easy to add from an extensive list, and most devices have commands presets available. New commands can be learned at any time by capturing the control signal from an existing remote. Activities combine commands for multiple IR devices into a single control panel with assignable buttons. Activities also have optional startup and shutdown macros, so devices can be turned on or off, inputs can be set, volume controlled, etc. when starting or stopping an Activity. Control panels can be built by adding buttons, assigning commands and icons to them and dragging them around to create your own remote. Ready-to-go templates are included for many devices/activities.

Ignoring my concerns about hardware quality for a bit, the functionality of the hardware/software combination is quite impressive. The premise is simple -- turn commands sent over Wi-Fi into infrared signals -- but the possibilities are endless. The large touch screen of the iPhone/iPod touch rivals that of the Harmony 1000/1100 or Pronto remotes. It lacks any hardware buttons, of course, but provides custom configurations limited only by screen space. The software setup is not as simple as I'd like, but the app itself is stable and reliable at this point. I think it would be well-served by a desktop-based application that could upload directly to the base unit. That would allow the user to build a remote/activity much faster than is possible with the iPhone, and decrease frustration significantly.

I'm not saying the RedEye isn't worth $188. It's a great universal remote system, and as far as I can tell, it's the only device of its type available for the iPhone/iPod touch (UIRemote seems to be dead?). It just needs some construction refinement, and maybe some software usability tweaks. If you've got an iPhone or an iPod touch, a lot of remotes on your coffee table, and a little time to spend with the initial setup, RedEye is really a very cost-effective solution. For more information (and ordering info), take a look at the RedEye site.

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