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Qmote: The Kickstarter universal remote that could kill Android Wear

We chat with Samson Chen, the maker of this unique 'internet remote' for smartphones

Qblinks Qmote

Picture the scene: You’re trying to enjoy a Sunday morning lie-in, but then your phone alarm goes off. It’s on the other side of the room and out of reach, forcing you to get out bed. Wouldn’t it be great to have a remote control for your phone? Enter the Qmote. This multifunctional remote can turn off your alarm, find your phone when it’s missing, turn music on and off, and control all sorts of smart tech around the house.

The Qmote is currently on Kickstarter – with less than 2 weeks remaining. The size and shape of a guitar plectrum, the Qmote only has the one button, but you can program it to complete any number of functions depending on how many times you click it. These can easily be set up using the free companion app. It also works with IFTTT so you can harness the online automation service to control the smart tech in your house, like dimming your Philips Hue lightbulbs or turning down your Nest thermostat.

Small enough to fit it in your pocket or fit on a keyring, the Qmote offers all the conveyance and control of a smartwatch, but without the need to have it manacled to your wrist. Unlike an Andorid Wear watch, it doesn’t require daily charging either. Instead it runs on a coin cell battery that will last a full year and only uses Bluetooth Low Energy 4.0 to connect with your phone

Could this universal remote kill Android Wear? We put this to Samson Chen, co-founder of Qmote’s manufaturer, Qblinks…

  •  Where did the idea for the Qmote come from?
    Qmote wasn’t really an over-night idea, rather an evolving process. We have been working on Bluetooth Smart based technology since late 2012 and we launched our first Bluetooth Smart product, internal code name Qblinks-Q1, June 2014. When we first created Qblinks-Q1, we tried making a super light version of a “smart-watch-like” gadget. We collected feedback from our backers of the unsuccessful campaign to figure out what they did like about Qblinks. Almost everyone thought we were creating a remote control, so we decided to create a “real” remote control.

 

  • How does the Qmote know which function you require?
    We researched similar products, listed features we wanted to include and sent them to our backers, used their feedback to decide which functions to include, and finally examined how the media reported the unsuccessful product. For example, Qblinks-Q1 had a temperature sensor, but rarely any media mentioned it. The temperature sensor was the first feature we removed, and we tried to integrate as many features as possible. However, we wanted users to easily grasp the concept of our product, so we focused on very few functions in our campaign video.

 

  • How complicated is the set up process to program what you want the Qmote to do?
    We are doing our best to keep the setup simple and straight-forward. For the first time user, just press (the Qmote), scan, add, and done. Qmote works with laptops as a presentation remote, but people mostly use Qmote with smartphones, so you may need to disconnect Qmote from your phone and reconnect it to your laptop for a business presentation. A quick switch without any software configuration is important in that situation, and when the Qmote connects to your phone, it restores the configuration with the phone automatically.

 

  • Doesn’t a wearable like the Android Wear smartwatch supersede the need for a Qmote?
    You can only wear one watch at a time, but you can have multiple Qmotes at multiple locations for multiple purposes. A smartwatch is an extension of the smarthphone. For most applications of a smartwatch you still need to look at it, which makes glancing at your smartwatch dangerous while driving a car. Qmote offers quick actions without watching your smartphone. I have yet to hear of any smartwatch manufacturer that promotes their smartwatch as using it without watching it.

Qmote, bedside

  • Why do you think the prototype Qmote failed to gain funding on Kickstarter last summer and what changes have you made since then?
    You mean the Qblinks-Q1. Many people have asked the same question and there are many reasons why we failed last summer.

– The product appearance.
In Qblinks-Q1, the manufacturer did not collaborate with the industry designer on the design. That caused a lot of problems when we tried to make the first working sample. For this product, the industry designer and the mechanical engineer started working on it at the same time to make sure the product would look like what the industry designer designed.

– Product position must be clear to the users.
The position of our first product was not clear. We conducted a survey after the unsuccessful project’s Kickstarter ended and found out very few people care about the temperature sensor (nevertheless, the temperature sensor was quite costly). My conclusion is “Less is more”. “Simple and elegant” is better than “We have everything”.

 – We spent 80% effort on the features that only 20% users care.
We invented a lot features that people ultimately didn’t care about, like the device sharing feature. To implement this feature, we had to invent a very complicated share mechanism and implement it in our cloud. In the end, the user interface was too difficult to explain how the device sharing feature worked.

 

  •  A Kickstart pledge costs as little as $15, how much will the Qmote retail for?
    MSRP for the North America market is USD$24.99, for EU market, it is USD$26.99.

 

  •  What other plans do you have for the Qmote’s functionality?
    We have opened Qmote protocol specification to the public. Some people are asking about the SDK, so the next thing for us is to release the software SDK for developers to make a Qmote compatible App without prior knowledge of the Bluetooth Low Energy stack programming. The other request we have, particularly from the Android users, is Tasker support. We are evaluating the Qmote plug-in for the Tasker automation and hopefully we can have it soon after we release the Qmote product.

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