Screen Crush

Meet Ray, the world’s smartest TV remote

By The Editors
December 14, 2015 9:00 am

Your holidays are going to be busy. Complicated. Lot of moving parts.

Let’s simplify all that right now.

Sit down. Turn on TV. And pick up Ray.

Just launched, Ray is a touchscreen device that aims to unite your jumble of remotes (yours truly uses six at a time). It uses a combo of WiFi, Bluetooth and infrared to pair with your household devices, be they TVs, A/V receivers, DVRs, soundbars, game consoles or streaming media players (like Roku).

It looks and feels like a smartphone, including an on-screen keyboard to simplify searches. It works like one, too: every channel or input is one tap or swipe away, with initial setup taking just a few minutes — and no longer involving you scrambling around looking for barcodes on the back of your devices.

The real genius of Ray, though, is the way the device learns and improves your viewing habits.

“My idea for the device was when I was sitting in front of the TV and realized I wasn’t able to search for anything easily,” says Ray CEO David Skokna. “I thought if we could search, we could also personalize and localize your viewing. And here we have this device we all use and everyone hates. I thought we could make it intelligent.”

Ray opens to a friendly “Hello” screen divided into several quick-hit categories: kids, sports, etc. On your first go-around, the device asks you a few questions about viewing habits, and from there attempts to predict what you will like based on what you already like.

From there, the remote personalizes your content searches based on your user profile and prior interests. (I found it a far better experience than BuddyTV, a similarly minded app I use.)

“The problem with the TV in general is that it doesn’t know me and what I like if I have family,” says Skokna. “For instance, I like watching European soccer on Sunday mornings. My experience today is I have one remote to turn on the TV, one to turn on the cable and then no idea how to find soccer unless I go to the on-screen guide, which looks like an Excel spreadsheet.”

The device isn’t perfect: while currently compatible with 1,200+ devices, Ray doesn’t connect with Playstations and Amazon Fire as of yet — though the founders told us they’re adding dozens of new devices daily.

On the plus side, DISH and DirecTV owners will get unique applications that mesh well with the respective satellite services’ VOD and DVR options. Plus, the device will soon work with household devices like Nest.

If one of your devices is missing, you can send feedback and requests directly from the remote.

On first use, I noticed some particularly nice touches, like a generous operating radius (Ray claims up to 33 feet), fingerprint- and oil-resistant coating and a robust aluminum frame.

The remote is available now, and will ship before Christmas. Another way to check out Ray: it’s officially showcasing at CES in January, where it’s already nominated for a 2016 Innovation Award.

All in all, it’s one less thing to worry about this holiday. Or, in my case, six.

Nota bene: Need some stuff to watch? Check out Culture Hound, our monthly guide to the best in pop culture—including a few must-see TV options for the holidays.

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