CrackBerry @ WES: Unify4Life BlackBerry Remote Control

By Kevin Michaluk on 14 May 2008 04:52 pm EDT

Trust me, you are going to be hearing a LOT about Unify4Life's BlackBerry Remote in the days and weeks ahead. Why? Because it KICKS ASS. We're talking Best of WES 2008 Awesomeness here.

It comes down to serving a need. I lose track of my remotes ALL THE TIME. You know what I rarely rarely rarely misplace? MY BLACKBERRY. Turn my BlackBerry into a Remote Control and I am one HAPPY MAN.

I'm heading up to the Unify4Life Suite in a couple of hours to get a more in-depth look at the technology behind U4L's BlackBerry Remote, but the video above provides a quick walk through (apologies for the not-great on BB screen quality). Take a look. And put aside $100, as you'll want to be giving it to these guys soon.

Reader comments

CrackBerry @ WES: Unify4Life BlackBerry Remote Control


This is stupid. It's all remote control through wifi or Internet/WAN via the A/V hub. Why not just put an IR port on a BB from the factory and just simply build software that uses IR to do this. Not only that, but then maybe the Palm Treo won't hold an axe over RIM's head for not being able to be used in RealEstate where an IR port is quite often used with lockbox applications.

Umm stupid? I think its perfect actually. why use IR when you can use more advanced technology and more current technology? can you please tell me what is wrong with using WIFI or Internet/WAN for controlling your TV through your blackberry? it actually seems like it works very well, thank you very much.

So Mr. 1998 Civic, you should go play with your car instead, these blackberry devices are too advanced for you.

With this, the BASESTATION still connects via IR to the components unless other capabilities exist in newer units (not always the case). This is no different then a wireless RF remote which ties into a basestation in a enclosed cabinet where all your components are which then drives IR nodes for each component.

Try to understand the technology before you bash it or for that matter bash someone else. ID 10 T

Let me quote you... "Try to understand the technology before you bash it or for that matter bash someone else."

Being a hypocrite sucks. I like how your first words in your first comment about it were, "This is stupid", then followed by a rant about why you thought this was stupid without any acknowledgement of it being a new smart idea, a very well put together interface, etc.

Failure to mention those is kinda like failing to understand the technology fully, having a bias, or both. And the overall summer about what you were gonna talk about and what you think about the product, kinda gave it all away, "This is stupid."

I also forgot to mention that Bluetooth technology is starting to get more advanced and at this stage, is already more advanced than IR. From what I know, you can't transfer files using IR. So building on BT I would say is a very smart idea for future products and services so that they can be integrated together, just like this product is trying to integrate the BB with your TV.

Myself, I really don't like to bash technology advancements because in the end, I usually end up using them. I think if you ask anyone else what their overall impression about this product is, "stupid" would not be in it.

Hey, I have an idea. How about you register and post your comments. You sound like the rep for this product or something. Why be so shy, register and be done with it.

Now, I said the product was stupid and in my opinion it is from the standpoint as to what it does. I didn't say it wasn't a good invention, but I also don't believe it's revolutionary. I think too many companies are trying "very" hard to make products for the BB platform that are already being fulfilled by products already to market. There are a gazillion universal remotes and RF technology wireless remotes for such needs. Not to mention the countless Crestron type systems that implement these types of technologies. Now, had a compnay like Crestron or a company that simply made software to interface with these other technologies come and made the client side of this solution (software running on BB) I would have found it interesting because they would be filling a small interest void. However, having to go out and buy another box and have wires going to each component in the cabinet to just say "Hey, check me out... I can change channels with my BB" is... well, Stupid.

This is mainly why I said IR (if the BB even had it) would be a better solution. It would just be software on the BB already using BB native hardware. Obviously that can't be done because the BB has some hardware shortcomings, but you must understand that my viewpoints on this matter come from the fact that way too many people are looking for new ways to reinvent the wheel when it really doesn't need to be. Had they come up with a way to do with without any need for aditional hardware would have peeked my interest more... but alas, it can't be done like that due to hardware constraints. The point is, it's too specialized, and because of that the product is too rooted in it's core concept. It's one specialized solution, it doesn't branch out to interact with other things. This company should have made something that closely works with other industry standard devices such as these. I don't want another "crutch" box in my house to "enable" my BB to do something else. Build something for the BB that can use something that's already in my house and expand upon it in a closer/non-invasive solution. This is why I belive that RIM should be stepping up and expanding the hardware capabilities of the BB. If they can do that, they can start grasping at other market technologies in a much simpler way.

The technology of IR is old. Why would I want Blackberry to add an IR sensor to a new phone when bluetooth or wifi can do the same job, and offer more useful features than IR. Sure the connection of their box to your components is IR, but not your blackberry to their box. That is like asking RIM to build a slot in the Blackberry to hold a full sized SD card, because I don't want to deal with the adapter to put the SD card in something else. The interesting part of the solution to me that we probably won't know until someone gets a test unit (hinthint...Kevin)
is how can this be expanded upon. I am guessing that their box might access your wifi signal. For example, I am riding the train home from work and I open my phone to see what is on TV, and a show that I want to see will be on in 15 minutes and I won't be home in time. I could potentially set my DVR to start recording from my Blackberry. Not saying that it will do this, but a possibility if set up to do so.

A lot of people are hoping to use the Iphone as a remote to connect to Apple TV or Itunes, and it doesn't have an IR port. I think this is a viable solution because of how it has the ability to reach across platforms and devices that never work right together. It will be interesting to find out how their box interfaces with the blackberry (wifi, bluetooth, internet), because there are a lot of curves and pearls out there that do not have wifi.

You really are very contradictory. First you come across as being what I call "old school", they are people who are very resistant to change, usually grumpy about something new, thinks that the way it was done before is the way its supposed to be done, etc. Then you say "Build something for the BB that can use something that's already in my house and expand upon it in a closer/non-invasive solution." It seems like two different people wrote those paragraphs. I don't think you seem to realize that they did "build something", that tv program on the blackberry, "for the BB", "that can use something that's already in my house", your TV, "and expand upon it in a closer/non-invasive solution", exactly what the program allows you to do, control your TV from your blackberry.

Like it was stated in the article and I find to be very true, is that most people don't always know where the remote is and they definitely don't have it with them all the time. The opposite is usually true for people with a BB who know where it is and usually have it with them all the time. Why not get a controller app for your BB? It lets you watch your program FULL SCREEN while looking at the other channels to see what's on and lets you control the TV from your BB. I'm sure if they don't have a feature built in already, they would in the future, and that is that if there is an incoming call, it would automatically pause your DVD or mute the TV so that you could take the call. Or just turn it down. Now all of these examples are how it "expands upon" traditional TV remotes and integrates it to your BB. Exactly what you stated you wanted to have built for the BB. You are very contradictory son.

BTW, there is no need to sign up here. Why would I? To obey you? haha riighttt!

You seem like you can use your vocabulary pretty decently. Those are some big words you use, but the dead give away is that you contradict yourself the whole time. If you're gonna reply to this I only have one question for you. Since you mention how IR would be so much better than using the current solution, and that BB should expand their hardware capabilities, (another example of contradictory statements), why would you say that they should go "backwards" and use the older technology of IR and not use WIFI or Bluetooth, which they already have and is far more advanced than IR, and then expand on that technology?? I usually relate the word "expand" when used in a case like this to mean that they would "advance and move forward with technology", so hence meaning that they would "not" use IR technology.

Holvey's comment seems to make sense. Good to see someone has a head on their shoulders. So Mr. Civic, I seem to be just spanking you every time with your contradictory statements you can't help but make it seems. So if you'd like another round of spanking please continue..... IMMA SPANK YO A**!!!!

holvey has a good point in the remote control of DVR with enough info from a TV guide system, but unless this box tunnels out of your LAN to the Internet then it won't work. I doubt the box can do that currently. Not only that, but there are products out there that can that right now from Crestron (if you don't know who they are, then search). The stupidity factor for this product for me comes from the fact that it's nothing more then "remote control" at the moment. I don't care if it's BT or WiFi, it's just remote control. It doesn't give you video on the handset, so you can't compare it to a Slingbox on BB or AppleTV on iPod. That's two totally different products from this. It's just a damn remote people. An overglorified remote at that.

Also, implementing IR is not going backwards. There's major support and requirement in Real Estate for IR technology because all lockbox technology currently works with IR. I said this before and that's why both WM and Palm has that market cornered. IR may be old tech from the point of "when it was invented", but it's used in all current remotes for ALL A/V components (gee, the market this product is trying to cross into). I guess I just don't understand why I need to buy another box to replace my universal remote with my BB. I guess I'm not one of those people wanting so much for my BB to turn into tp so I can wipe my a55 with it too, because apperently it doesn't do enough in my life now. I have an idea, how about we have the industry concentrate on the core concepts of the BB and improve those before we ask it to be a universal remote. I still don't have HTML email on my BB, but oh wait, it's cool because I can change channels on my TV with it. :rolleyes: Hell man, if I want to change channels or the volume on my TV without using my remote I'll break out my PSP and do it with that. Yeah, even that pos has IR on it, but a $500 BB doesn't.

Here's what I want my BB to do....

Stream Media (Video and Audio) (Slingbox client is coming)
HTML Email support (RIM dragging butt)
Full Browser support (RIM dragging butt)

Remote control for my microwave (err TV) is not on the menu.

Do those simple things first and then we can talk about remote controlling something.

Connectivity to Media Server with full stream via WiFi or Cell = Cool. Remote control of TV = Stupid.

If you don't like it, blow me. :thumbsup:

Forgot to mention I'm putting on a game. Its kinda like Where's Waldo? but it involves finding the contradictory statements of Mr. Civic. If you guess the right number of contradictory statements you win a prize! I haven't decided the prize yet tho :P

But for example here is another statement that is contradictory:
"Now, I said the product was stupid and in my opinion it is from the standpoint as to what it does. I didn't say it wasn't a good invention, but I also don't believe it's revolutionary."

So Mr. Civic says the product is "stupid", that word, if needed to be associated to a positive or negative side would fall under the negative side. You didn't say it wasn't a good invention, which I agree, but you said it was "stupid". I wouldn't really associate "stupid" and a "good invention" together. Breaking it down to its simplest terms, "stupid" would be associated with a negative, where as "good invention" would obviously be associated with a positive. Hence, Ladies and Gentlemen, we have found yet another contradiction.

Thanks for playing!

The problem with IR is 1, range, 2 direction. If your A/V equipment is in a cabinet or even behind you, what are you going to do with IR? This is a cool option and I would love to try it if I didnt have my Harmony.

to me the key here is as follows:
- For those who own a BB that hardware/user interface is
familiar and paid for...
- most of us are not without them
- BB does not have IR but 95% of your "stuff" is IR based
- This product is leveraging the thousands of man hrs that RIM invested into the hardware development

So... this product acts as a bridge between your old IR equipment, leverages the existing BT technology for stereo gateway so you don't need to buy one of those too. The program guide is good today but ultimately will continue to improve and evolve as they have the full processing power of the BB hardware plus networked connectivity..

From a power consumption perspective this will consume less than using your BT headset

I do know the company on a professional level...

I believe RIM had an IR port on early Blackberry products, however they removed it:
* Space
* Power

Most of the other products (Palm) that use IR offer short range product only (Biz card transfer) due to power issues, and this will not function well in a remote control application.

Some advantages with our AV solution include:
* Interactive Program Guide (UnifyGuide TM) on the bLackberry
- Easy search (Blackberry Keypad) of listings
- One click reminders in Blackberry calendar
- One touch PVR recording
* No more remote batteries
* Behind cabinet operation
- With our optional (low cost: $30) IR extenders, you will not need to have line of site with any AV equipment you own

We've created the best universal remote control in the world, by leveraging the great UI, Keyboard, and track ball on the Blackberry.

I'm sure for some people our product will bring some value, and for others it will not be a great fit.

If RIM do add an IR port, we'll have our UI and S/W ready to go.

That thing is pretty sick!! But for $100 bucks, Ill look under the couch for my remote before spending that much..

Kevin is a little overly excited here. (either that or he's taking in the beverages at the Boxtone booth). His last sentence is a little over the top. "And put aside $100, as you'll want to be giving it to these guys soon". Ya, i just cant wait to set aside 100.00 to give these guys after reading only a couple writeups and watching a video. This guy could be selling cinder blocks out of his trunk and it would be a big deal :)

Few quick comments...
BT would be great but today most TV's/DVD/STB etc.. do not have BT. IrDA has been standard for remotes for quite some time. Blackberry's have BT but not IrDA. This is where unify4life adds value in that they bridge the two...
The demo I've seen does not require line-of-site as they must be using new IrDA. Newer IrDA products get around the LOS issue via diffused infrared.

I might be wrong but i read somewhere that this device is not gonna use Ir nor BlueTooth, but an OTA connection through the blackberry instead.

The application is downloaded to your Blackberry via an OTA download.

The interactive UnifyGuide TM (TV Program Guide), also gets downloaded daily OTA.

The Unify4Life AV Hub interfaces with your Blackberry via Bluetooth, and interfaces with your AV equipment thru the IR port.

Thanks for interest in our product. Regards Mike

When: October 1, 2008
Where: Retailers (including and carriers
How Much: Current Suggested Retail Price Of $99.00

Thanks for your interest in our products and services. Regards Mike

We'll be starting production shipments to various retailers (like and carriers starting October 1, 2008.

Thanks for your interest. Regards Mike

As someone else once said,"Whoa."
That IS cool. The first question is how does it work through your BB? Is it Wi-Fi or bluetooth? I definitely need to get one of those.

The Unify4Life AV Hub interfaces to your Blackberry via Bluetooth.

Thanks for your interest in our product. Regards Mike

The Unify4Life AV Hub interfaces to your Blackberry thru Bluetooth and provides an IR output to manage your AV equipment.

There is also an optional IR extender that plugs into the unit for behind cabinet control (allows all you equipment to be placed behind a cabinet door)

I hope that answers your question and thanks for your interest. Regards Mike

What happens if the single BlackBerry owner of the family leaves with their device? Does everyone in the household need to have one? Does it support multiple BlackBerry's?

I've been searching for a while now. Does anyone know if there is remote control (free) software for the BB. I just want to change songs on iTunes or Winamp. Real simple, I don't need full desktop access