We're still enjoying the novelty of using an iPhone or iPod Touch as a basic remote control - and for many other handy AV uses, as our recent feature covers - but at CEDIA Expo, we experienced an iPhone app that could elevate Apple's pocket wonder to a whole new level.
Bobby is an application with the potential to control all your home entertainment kit from your iPhone or iPod Touch, plus to integrate a range of related home-automation tasks - think dimming the lights, lowering the blinds/your projector screen - into single, graphically driven commands.
The app, from Silcon Valley start-up, cRemote, is only a few weeks old, but can already access a database of more than 400 popular TVs, Blu-ray players, receivers and more - and users can upload their own macros, too. The company modestly dubs its creation 'the world's most powerful universal remote control'.
You can browse through pictures of all your home's devices, room by room- even uploading your own photos for a tailored look. The remote control for each device can be further customised so the most frequently used buttons are just where you want them. At last, a chance to over-ride some of the more obtuse layout decisions that manufacturers can make for their remote controls.
From Neighbours to 'the neighbours are watching what??!'
So far, so universal remote, but then Bobby takes it further. It will integrate with an app-based TV guide, so you can go from browsing what's on to turning your TV and system on to enjoy that show - all with one touch. US TV viewers can already enjoy this service, with UK services, including Sky and Freeview, on the agenda.
There's more - and here's where it starts to get a tad scary. Integration with social-network mapping means you could see what your friends and family are watching and decide to tune into the same (any bets Bobby could be named in future divorce actions?!).
When Bobby met Hal
Future developments get even more sci-fi, when Bobby gets an artificial-intelligence upgrade. The app will be able to learn your preferences - say, lights dimmed when watching horror movies; volume up for parties; volume down for late-night listening - and then offer you the same settings when you watch similar content/listen at similar times.
It will even use the Apple iPhone's built-in microphone to measure ambient noise before making volume suggestions/adjustments - after all, you may have turrned up the volume because the washing-machine was going full-pelt next door!
Bobby needs hardware
The Bobby remote control is already available from the iTunes App store, priced £5.99, but you'll need to add one of these, at @£100, to enjoy the full, learning-remote functionality. Still, by home-automation standards, that's a snip...
We'll bring you more on Bobby - including a full review - as its plans for world domination continue!