Ask a kid to draw you a remote control and you’ll get a candy-bar shape with buttons on it. That’s the way they’ve always been, and even modern touch-screen remotes stick to the same basic rectangular profile. It fits in the hand, it has enough room for a boatload of buttons, and it sits nicely on a coffee table. There’s no reason to change it.
But the Danish design firm Bang & Olufsen has to mix things up a bit; it’s what they do. The company’s line up of off-beat audio and video products looks like the portfolio of a particularly ambitious and dreamy industrial design student, and its latest remote control is no exception. The Beo5 resembles, quite simply, a circle and square stuck together. But that description falls a little short on artistic vision – according to B&O’s press release, the design is a “a contradiction in forms,” and its designer actually intended for it to look like a sceptre, an “ancient symbol of power and control.”
Whether you buy the symbolism or just want something that looks cool, there’s no question that the Beo5 succeeds in looking unique. Since actually using it might also be a concern, B&O also claims it’s quite comfortable. The portion that the hand wraps around is actually an aluminum ball, and it’s even been balanced with tungsten weights to get the feel just right. We’re guessing the plastic brick that came with your TV set probably didn’t get quite the same attention to detail.
Like most modern universal remotes, the Beo5 uses an LCD screen to allow for some degree of customization and control for different devices. Keeping with Bang & Olufsen’s high-end bent, you don’t actually customize it yourself – the company’s network of dealers handles each installation on a case-by-case basis and takes care of all the setup involved. As a result of the hands-off customization, Bang & Olufsen claims the remote can be adapted to virtually any home theater component, including ones that don’t yet exist. It can even be set up to control other automated household functions like lighting and temperature.
The driving concept behind the remote’s operation is ease of use. Dense arrays of buttons that clutter up a traditional remote can be confusing for the first-time users, so Bang & Olufsen applied a minimalist design to the interface on its own remote. Only eight basic commands have dedicated buttons arranged in a ring on the base of the remote, all other functions are performed using a directional controller planted in the middle, or by interacting directly with the touch-sensitive LCD screen.
Since Bang & Olufsen claims the Beo5 requires 1,000 times more battery capacity than a traditional remote, it requires occasional recharging to keep the integrated lithium-ion battery refreshed. It should last for about 12 days between charging, or 18 hours of continuous use. A full charge from empty takes about 5 hours using the intelligent tabletop stand, which keeps the battery from overcharging.
If you consider your home theater as much a showcase for fine art pieces as for fine cinema, the Beo5 should be right at home on your coffee table. And when it comes out in the fall, it will have a price to match other art masterpieces – about $560 in the United States.