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This $645 universal remote wants to control your entire home

Cantata Haptique RS90 universal smart home remote.

A massive hole was left by Logitech when it exited the universal remote business, which it had long dominated with its Harmony line of smart learning remotes. Several companies have tried to pick up from where Logitech left off, from the budget-minded SofaBaton, to the pricey Control4 Neeo, but none have been able to win the hearts and minds of couch surfers.

French/Indian/Chinese startup Cantata hopes to change that with its first product — the Haptique RS90 — a sleek, angled chunk of aluminum that looks a little like someone took a Motorola RAZR phone and turned it into a remote.

The RS90 and its upgraded sibling, the RS90X, come with charging base and are being crowdfunded on Kickstarter until July 19. While early backers may be able to get a Haptique RS90 for as little as 240 euros (about $260), Cantata expects the RS90 will sell for 600 euros (about $645) and the RS90X will go for 750 euros (about $806) once (if?) the devices make it to regular retail outlets. We’d also like to remind you that crowdfunding can be a notoriously unreliable way to buy a product, and since this is Cantata’s first kick at the can, the risks are much higher than with a well-known brand.

Cantata Haptique RS90 universal smart home remote.

Still, the Haptique RS90 promises to blend a touchscreen interface with dedicated physical (and backlit) buttons, in a rechargeable remote control that can talk to virtually any device in your home. Cantata says it can emit infrared (IR), connect via Bluetooth, and interact with a variety of hub-based and hubless ZigBee smart home ecosystems. Cantata plans to sell two color options: light silver and gunmetal gray — very Apple-esque — and says it will back the Haptique with a three-year warranty.

As you choose different activities, e.g. listening to Spotify, streaming Netflix, etc., the built-in 3.1-inch display will show customized interfaces with additional controls and features for each activity.

Cantata Haptique RS90 universal smart home remote.

When the campaign finishes and backers (hopefully) receive their remotes in August 2024, the system is expected to support:

  • Spotify
  • Denon and Marantz HEOS devices
  • Yamaha AV receivers
  • Philips HUE lighting
  • Home Assistant
  • Sonos
  • Amazon Fire TV
  • Android TV
  • Apple TV
  • Nvidia Shield
  • Roku

By the end of the year, that list is scheduled to expand to include:

  • Roon
  • Devialet
  • Kodi
  • Ikea Tradfri devices
  • Deezer
  • Sony PlayStation 5
  • Kaleidescape
  • Bang & Olufsen

Finally, Cantata says that Samsung SmartThings will also be supported, but hasn’t offered a timeline on it.

Cantata Haptique RS90 universal smart home remote.

As with Logitech’s now-discontinued line of Elite remotes, programming of the Haptique remotes is done via a mobile app for Android or iOS, which can also act as a backup remote in case the Haptique stops working or needs a recharge.

Both the RS90 and RS90X share the same basic design, but you can expect to get more from the RS90X. It features more memory, more storage, a faster processor, an OLED display (the RS90 used LCD), an IR receiver, Bluetooth 5.0 (versus 4.2 on the RS90) and even a fingerprint reader. The X variant also uses a more up-to-date Android 12 operating system, while the regular model is based on Android 8.1.

Both remotes also include a microphone, but it’s not yet clear whether you’ll be able to issue voice commands directly to your devices. Cantata says it’s working on Siri integration for Apple TV, with Amazon’s Fire TV and Android TV voice support to come later. Voice integration proved to be the one area that Logitech’s Harmony remotes never mastered, and as voice-based devices like Apple TV, Fire TV, Roku, and smart TV became more popular, Harmony remotes simply couldn’t keep pace. Logitech tried very briefly (and unsuccessfully) with the Alexa-powered Harmony Express. We’ll see if Cantata’s Haptique is more successful at bridging that gap.

It’s worth noting that in 2023, a very similar Kickstarter project wrapped up and began shipping products to backers: the Yio Remote Two (now renamed as the Unfolded Circle Remote Two) offered a very similar design and feature set to the Haptique RS90. So far, backers seem reasonably happy with their rewards, though many have pointed to the need for ongoing work and updates to make the Remote Two as good as its creator promised.

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