Appliance maker Sevenhugs thinks the worst part about the smart home is its reliance on apps. The company's solution is a universal remote that can communicate with a Wi-Fi or Bluetooth-connected gadget, like a set of Philips Hue lights or a Sonos speaker. The device will even conform its interface to match whatever it's controlling. For Hue lights, a rainbow-colored spectrum appears on the remote's display when pointed at the Philips bulb, letting you move your thumb back and forth to alter the lights as if Sevenhugs' product were made by Philips itself.
Of course, that's the hope. The Sevenhugs prototype I used on the CES show floor today doesn't do that quite yet. It still uses a rudimentary greyscale interface, like the one you'd find on a first-generation Pebble. However, the device does work as advertised. The remote could stop and start a nearby Sonos speaker, as well as control any Philips lightbulb in the vicinity, including one located in a room opposite us.
The device works by triangulating your position through three connected sockets you place around your home. Those devices, which Sevenhugs will sell with its remote in a starter kit, essentially sit between a wall or light socket. They can turn a dumb light into a smart one that can be controlled with the remote, but they're mainly used to locate the remote and identify which object you're pointing it at. The ones here at CES were just prototypes, and Sevenhugs says it's designing far prettier versions for consumers' homes.
Sevenhugs has interesting ambitions. When a booth attendee pointed the remote at a picture of a beach taped to a pillar at the Sands expo hall, the remote told us the temperature outside. Sevenhugs wants its remote to be programmable, so that not only can it control a Nest thermostat, but it can pull up the Nest interface when you point the remote at a burning fire. This feature has fascinating potential when you consider how you could teach a smart remote to do clever associations when you point it at distinct objects in your home.
The device only works with Nest, Philips, and Sonos right now, but Sevenhugs says the remote should be compatible with any Wi-Fi or Bluetooth device so long as it brokers a partnership with the manufacturer and designs a custom interface. The company isn't disclosing a price right now, but it says preorders should start next month with shipping slated for September.