Turn Touch: This Kickstarter-backed remote control is an aesthetic and functional marvel

Remote controls are powerful and highly programmable devices but one thing they usually are not is pleasing to the eye. Now a new Kickstarter-backed project — funded well past its initial goal of $25,000 — wants to bring a remote control that is both functional and well-crafted to the masses.

The Turn Touch remote control is the invention of Samuel Clay, a prolific coder, artist, and photographer who lives in San Francisco and is prone to creating things like interactive biofeedback installations at Burning Man or hand-coded light-up dresses. His remote control is the natural extension of his coding projects which include a news reader called NewsBlur and the Internet of Things controls that integrate with the Turn Touch Remote Control.

The most immediate difference the Turn Touch has from a traditional remote control is that it’s manufactured from solid hardwoods and inlaid with mother of pearl. Rather than trying to come up with a complex locking system, Clay sealed the circuitry between the two halves of the remote with powerful magnets. It’s offered in three distinct styles: mahogany and maple, padauk and satinwood, and rosewood and sycamore. A standard CR2032 battery (the same battery in an Apple TV remote) powers it for up to 12 months.

The second thing you notice is that it only has four buttons. The reason for that is that Turn Touch integrates seamlessly with televisions and IoT-connected devices through customizable apps for iOS and MacOS. Each button controls an app, double-tapping controls different functions, and holding a button switches between apps. The remote doesn’t yet work with Android or Apple’s Homekit, although the latter is a likely candidate for updates.

Better yet, each button can be customized to manage multiple functions — meaning a single button tap could potentially turn off the television and lights, lock the doors, and set the temperature. Clay has programmed the Turn Touch to work with a variety of smart devices including media players iTunes, Sonos, Spotify and Pandora and hardware like Philips Hue and Lifx lights, Belkin Wemo power switches, and Nest thermostats. Clay has also pre-seeded his app system with apps dedicated to fitness, news, time and productivity.

As to why the Turn Touch remote control doesn’t integrate with voice commands, the website has a simple explanation: “Sure, voice control is handy. But often you’ll find yourself shouting just to be heard. Or, even worse, repeating yourself three times every time you want to turn on the lights. When voice control misunderstands you, you’re left frustrated and in the dark. We’d like you to stop screaming at light switches.”

Clay is still rolling out the Kickstarter products to backers. He intends to start tooling the remotes in April with delivery to all backers by November. There is no word yet on when the Turn Touch Remote might reach retail, where the different models will sell between $89 and $129.