Realistic options for hardbutton control and how will it work

Hi all,

I have started researching and testing Roomie after the anouncement that Harmony will be discontinued. So far Roomie is looking good and quite flexible and supports most of my devices one way or another.
The one thing I cannot really find information on that answers my questions is hard button remotes other than Harmony.

My scenario is this: Watching a movie in complete darkness and I want to pause the movie or change volume. Currently I grab the remote next to me and one button press is enough to do what I want.
Using an I phone or Ipad I would have to wake it up and unlock it and then press the button on the screen. Which is just not the same level of convenience. Leaving the ipad active or unlocked is not an option, the light from the device is distracting in a dark room.

So what I am looking for is an option for a hard button remote that will do some basic things like play/pause volume control, cursor, okay and back. What real options are there? And how does it work in practice? Do I link the remote to the ipad? I imagine I do, but how do I then control which button controlls what?
Suggestions for a hard button remote that is compatible are also very welcome, preferable something remote controller shapped and not an xbox controller.

I did search for documentation on this, if it exists I did not find it. Feel free to point me to the documentation on this, as long as it does answer the question.

Kind regards,

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This seems to be the crux of your post and everything else you said stems from it. By far the simpler and in my opinion better set of solutions come from resolving that issue for you, not by adding additional hardware.

In a living room scenario where the room is not completely dark, the issue is moot.

In a home theater scenario where the room is completely dark, many options exist. Some that come to mind, I use most or all of these:

  • Set the screen brightness to zero when starting a movie. This can be easily set from Control Center. The brightness of the screen is not distracting at that level even in a home theater that is pitch black, but can still be read. Personally, I sleep with devices setup this way right next to me.
  • Use a smaller iOS device that is less bright. A 12.9" iPad is going to be brighter and more impactful to a room than an iPhone SE 2. Use an appropriate device for the room/environment. An iPhone SE 2 with brightness turned off is very effective for this.
  • Rest the iOS device face down when not in use. Eliminates the brightness issue if you still perceive it after above.
  • Make sure such controllers are ideally dedicated and/or set to appropriate Guided Access or lock time expirations. Eliminates the unlock issue.

These thoughts are the normal path for people who have spent a lot of time with hard button remotes. The best path is not “how do I keep using hard button remotes now that they are no longer in business” but rather “what simple techniques can I use to adapt my usage of hard buttons to the far more powerful iOS devices that are now the best way to do this”.

OTOH There may be some people unwilling to adapt and for that scenario running alongside an old Harmony is completely fine and we will retain that functionality as long as such users need it or they shut down their servers.

Hey Will,

Thanks for the extensive suggestion and I will take that into consideration. I can test your suggestion using my IPhone X to see how I like it.

Still very curious how the hardbutton support actually works though. iI I connect a game controller for instance, is there a place to map which button does what?

Harmony sync works fine b.t.w. wasn’t actually trying to configure it but added the hub because I was adding device anyway and it just started working.

Kind regards,

I have been on Roomie for a number of years now. Perpetual unlimited license holder. Big fan of the platform, but you have to accept that it doesn’t believe in hard button remotes from a philosophical standpoint as you can see by Will’s response above. As a result there are no great options.

Harmony: now out of business, but even before it involved duplicate setup of activities. One activity in Roomie and a duplicate activity in Harmony. Plus the extra hardware costs. Gets pricey quick when you have four viewing rooms and want to support two users controlling in each room. Never mind the listening rooms.

Game controller: not ergonomically designed to be a remote control for audio / video. Again, hardware gets pricey quick. No wife-acceptance-factor. No easy handoff of a well-known UI when guests come over.

Lutron: not a perfect solution, but not a terrible solution either. But you have to be invested in Lutron. I believe you need an RA2 controller, though honestly I am not sure. We aren’t a Lutron house for lighting, so I guess I owe this another look.

I have been advocating that Roomie expose an API - the same API that is exposed to Alexa - to user that would give a custom integration option to those of us who have a philosophical disagreement about the value of hard button remotes. Give me endpoints that can control volume and playback controls of a Roomie activity and a world of opportunity opens up to me. I continue to be hopeful that if I mildly advocate for this feature from time-to-time that it will be added, but so far it is in the “maybe one day” category according to Will.

One thing I don’t understand is how the app scenario is supposed to work ideal world. Four rooms with video. Want two people to be able to control in each room. That is 8 dedicated iOS devices? Is that $2400 minimum? Starting to get into Control4 money. And with Control4 you get an (inferior) app and hard button remotes.

Roomie rocks. You won’t be disappointed. You just have to shift paradigms to “app is king” or find work-arounds for hard-button remotes.

Thanks for the extensive reply. I think it is a matter of the right tool for the job, and at the moment a touchscreen is not always it. If for instance you have a device where you can browse the media library from Roomie and choose what you want to watch, that is great and really works as a concept.
If however you have a situation where you are basically just having the buttons of a virtual remote on the screens then it is not as nice as being able to feel where the button actually is.

I do like Roomie, but a real hard remote option for some of the basic controls would be very handy. And then over time it will probably become less relevant and (hopefully) be replaced with devices that are integrated as described above. I for one would love to have an integrated experience for netflix where I can browse Netflix from Roomie and then have it pop upon the tv once I have chosen what I want. That could be a really reach experience much better than what the tv offers in the netfix app using the remote. Same for Appletv and watching movies that I bought in that, how cool would it be if I could have a list of movies I can watch and just click to watch. Much like with Kaleidescape I imagine, but those things are above what I want to spend for a player.

My biggest issue at the moment is that I have no workable way of choosing tv channels, there is no guide for the Netherlands and the LG panel just gives me ch+ and ch- which is not a very nice way to find your channel. A guide would be great, but I understand that if there is no provider it is not doable. But a way to import a list of channels that can be used to select would make it workable.

Don’t get me wrong, I like Roomie and have bought unlimited perpetual this weekend after last weeks testing, but I think the concept is sometimes a bit ahead of it’s time and some temporary concessions might do the experience good until the rest of the world catches up.

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With the fall of Harmony, searching around for other options I have been following a product called YIO Remote. It’s now starting development on it’s second generation (first Gen was more a DIY solution but 2nd Gen seems its going to be a more mass market user friendly version). Still early early days but its formed by people who were adopters of the NEEO remote if that’s anything to go by as to their ambitions of this project.

Might be something to keep an eye on for the future.

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