My Neeo is a major disappointment due to fundamental software Problems
Over the last decade I tested a dozen different universal remotes and all of them failed to provide a simple and “wife friendly” user experience. (Pick it up and use without any explanation.) Then came the Neeo Kickstarter Project with a bold claim: to end all the hassle and to provide an easy to use remote for all equipment in the house.
Two years later it finally arrived in a stylish package. The hardware did not disappoint (except for the unlit buttons) but the software is (in my opinion) a major fail.
Abstract layers (recipes, rooms, explicit device screens) between the user and the hardware makes an intuitive usage impossible. It forces the user in to the logic of the developer instead of letting the user to decide what she/he wants to do with the hardware.
Let me explain what I mean using my self made remote which I created to bridge the long waiting time for my Neeo. (I included some images of the interface of my main remote and one picture of a small Nextion touchscreen display I use for certain interaction with my home server.) It’s not about the style or the look of the icons, it’s about the possibilities how to customize the user experience.
My smart home runs on FHEM which is a free smart-home control server application running on inexpensive hardware (RasberryPi for Example).
It can control nearly every device which you can think of in a smart home context, among them of course all the equipment around my TV.
Some of my multimedia equipment is network enabled and FHEM controls them directly without IR. The others are controlled through a Harmony Hub.
Harmony is like Neeo. It forces me to do things their (Logitech) way.
Fortunately I only have to define the equipment in the Harmony app, but nothing else. FHEM is then aware of the devices and I can get all available commands via the FHEM interface.
Here lies one major advantage over Neeo. Neeo’s database is incomplete regarding the functions of a device. For example it only provides the input names of my Samsung TV by number (Input1, Input2...Input15). The Harmony Hub supplies the real names (Input HDMI1, Input Component 1, etc).
As FHEM is server based, it can be used from everywhere, even from outside of the house regardless whether I’m in reach of my WLAN or not.
This might be considered uninteresting for a remote but we are no longer in the 1980s where a remote only had to control a TV and a VHS. Today's smart homes are far more complex and there is simply no room left for expensiv remote only gadgets. (Which the Neeo unfortunately currently is.) Therefor the Neeo’s brain should be able to become a control center for a smart home bridging all the different devices.
Two important features of FHEM are dummy devices and Notifications. A Dummy can be a simple switch or it can have more complex readings. A Notify observes a device (or a dummy) and if there is a change in the device it executes user defined commands.
This way a “Recipe” can be easily created as a list of device commands (set TV ON; set SAT ON; set AMP ON etc.) started by a notify. Conditional statements and timing commands are also available and this way complex control tasks can be easily created as well.
One of the Extension to FHEM is the Tablet UI. It's a tile based interface for switches, sliders, images, charts, knobs and all sort of other interface entities.
The display of a user interface unit can be built up out of individual pages and each page is divided in tiles. Just like Neeo with its rooms or device pages and the buttons on them.
The major difference is that one has the complete control over the content and the look of the pages.
Each individual page is a simple HTML file and the tiles within are simple CSS blocks describing the look and function of the widgets. Icons are vector based but images can also be used on certain types of widgets as button faces.
Everything is nicely documented with tons of examples. This way even inexperienced users can quickly create (or rather cut & paste) an interface without the need of any SDK or complex programming. To cater for the vast variety of smart home devices there are a lot of widget types to choose from. Buttons, rotary buttons, sliders, color wheels, input fields/lists and many more.
A TabletUI Wysiwyg editor for those who don't want to "write" HTML code is also available. (Something like this should be available for Neeo!)
Every device which can display a HTML page and accepts touch input can be used as an input device. In combination of a kiosk style browser and an orientation sensor aware tool (like Tasker on Android) a cheap tablet can become a proper remote control with "screen off" timer and “pick it up -> turn on screen” function. (Like Neeo.)
The user has direct access to the display and knobs (if the displaying unit has any hardware buttons) and can define them the way she/he wants.
There are no limitations to mix functions from different devices for the hardware buttons and no Starting Recipe Circles to masquerade lags.
I let my wife test my remote setup and then I refine it until she has no complains and can use it intuitively. She rejected to use the Neeo because of its unfriendly and complicated usage logic.
I’m sorry to say but Neeo has not fulfilled any of the “easy to use” and “simple to set up” claims which were made during the kickstarter promotion. The hardware is capable of a lot more but not with the current software. A cheap, used tablet and Harmony Hub with a free software running on a 30 Euro Raspberry Pi delivers a much more sophisticated user experience as the very expensive Neeo!
Of course on a 7” tablet I can display more content than on the small display of the Neeo but exactly that is the reason why the Neeo should provide me all customization options, so I can get the most out of the small display size and this without lags.
My Nextion Display (driven by a WeMos D1 Mini, connected through WiFi to FHEM) has a similar display size and it provides full customization and most of all instant execution of the user input without “Starting Recipes Circles” and waiting times.
Our Neeo is currently a 400 Euro paperweight. I still hope that one day it will become just as versatile and powerful as my home made remote. I'm afraid though that this will never happen with the current user interface philosophy. You can keep on tweaking it for years but this won't fix the fundamental design flaw. I have it for over a year now and altough I keep installing the new firmwares on it, I don't see any significant improvement. This is very sad as the project started out as a game changer and the hardware has much more potential in it.
Patrick Jeff Raphael How many posts like this will be necessary for you to decide to communicate on the roadmap of software development?
Our disappointment is due to delays in dev but also to the lack of visibility on what is or is not being implemented. You are doing a huge work on integration of protocols and devices but the UI remains terribly poor and misses customization.
Until you release more drivers, packages and "intelligence" for the Neeo device, you must let the users customize the UI to build something usable. Current framework is really restrictive: some people prefer grouping by device or activity rather than per room, pages layout should be adjustable (why so small buttons or click zones on pages?), hard buttons should be assigned to functions, icons and buttons should be editable from a library.
I hope this is taken into account in near upcoming updates.Reply
As I wrote in my first post, I'm not satisfied with my Neeo because the limitations imposed by the current software leave the power of the remote unused.
Although the display is small, it would be still possible to control much more functions efficiently if the user interface would provide the necessary solutions.
I'm not a UI designer but based on my experience with my self made remote, I have ideas how I would like to use my Neeo. It's my personal view and certainly not for everyone's taste but maybe it gives some input to the developers.
I created a short video to show a UI concept which I have in mind for my Neeo.
In my opinion the hardware is more than capable to drive such an interface.
I would really like to see some significant development in this area...
Please excuse the unprofessional presentation and the bad quality UI Images. Currently I simply don't have the time to do it properly.Reply
When I bought my two (yes two🤦♂️) Neeo's, my intention was not to become a programmer and have to learn code and sdks and the like, too busy in life to do that! I wanted to be able to grab my PC or smart phone open the program add my devices and then drag n drop buttons, icons, images, sliders etc. and create my own screens. I wanted to have Tv, lights and what I want like Steve Kozma is describing MY way, I had a Yamaha Rav 2000 back in the day and this was an awesome remote, simple drag n drop interface. I've had Harmony and their propriety way of programming was to much in the box for me Neeo's is not better😔 I must admit. I agree with Steeve the UI should be simple, not dependant of infrared, Bluetooth capable and not limited to wan. Neeo's group do not respond in fact they are non existent in this forum now ( this was not their promise when they created the forum) I believed in this team so much so I bought 2 but I fear we may be looking at a ghost of remotes past😔. Prove me wrong speak up Raphael PatrickReply
I don't think we will get any response from the "officials" and there is a logical reason for that.
The promises Neeo made in the Kickstarter Project were quite bold. Unfortunately they could not deliver that perfect remote. Kind of understandable, as most of these Projects are somewhat unfinished at delivery.
After over a year the Remote is still far away of what was promised and this is actually a big Problem and certainly everyone at Neeo is aware of this. But what should they do?
Entering a discussion with us would only prove that there are many areas where the Remote doesn't function the way it was expected. Responding with empty promises would make things even worse. The discussion would be also not very favorable in regard of future founding of Neeo. A quick fix for all of these problems can not be made as these are fundamental differences between what the software is able to deliver now and what is expected by some of us.
So the only logical choice is to ignore the "Noise"... it will go away soon.
Which is unfortunately true. We will give up one day and sell our Neeos (if there will be anyone out there actually wanting one) and so peace of mind will be restored at the Neeo headquarter.
They can then concentrate on the PROs and (hopefully) this will save them from disappearing completely.
I think it’s not fair to only stick with the things that NEEO can’t do yet in regards to the things that where mentioned in the kickstarter. In contrast, many other features have been included in the firmware updates since. Most of them where new features. HDMI-CEC for instance is unique for a remote. Now I do understand very well that some users are not happy that for instance Bluetooth or Nest are still not available. I also believe that NEEO should interact more about the how and why regards these features.
Other suggestions here wil most likely never happen. Displaying HTML based widget for instance is just not possible. Although the app is HTML based the remote is not. The remote won’t be able to render HTML with the performance we and NEEO would except as usable. All components used by the remote and the App have to be designed on both platforms. With every firmware update new components are added. Although a display full of widgets, buttons and whistles will look cool, it certainly won’t contribute to the wife acceptance factor.
it’s certain that the UI will stay limited to the design that NEEO offers. While new components are introduced. It may get a new style at some point but building your own UI components will not happen, even if they would make all code open source.
There is a general misconception that building your own integration requires a lot of time and coding skills. As I pointed out many times, integrations like those for OpenHab and Homey let you build your own driver with a couple of mouse clicks. Your driver can include buttons sliders text fields images and more, just with a click. If you’re using some other tool than just forward these commands to your favorite tool. Yesterday I’ve built an API for our mechanical ventilation system (hooked up a Arduino like product with a wireless module). To integrate that with NEEO it took me less then five minutes and I haven’t touched a single line of code. Just opened my homey App, added a new device than tapped on add component a couple of times, then defined to act on these components. Opened the NEEO App, searched and added the device and done. With every NEEO in our home I can now control our mechanical ventilation system.
while I’m still waiting for components like a color picker and some others. I’m sure they will come one at a time. It certainly doesn’t withhold me and my family to control everything in our home. I never needed to instruct my wife only my son when he couldn’t read yet. Now he can read and uses the remote probably more then I do.
I’m sure the NEEO isn’t a good fit for everyone and many reasons could be behind that. I’m sure that personal reasons are true, no one would invest so much time to comment here to show what you’re missing. It also tells that NEEO does something very well if they wouldn’t then no one would bother leaving a comment anyway.
I hope that those that are disappointed can at least find a workaround. I’m certain that 99% of the usecases are possible. Maybe in a different form. Posting concrete goals you want to achieve with NEEO will certainly result in other users reaching out to help.
I’m hoping to add a bit of contrast and clearance in what is not possible and more importantly what is possible.Reply
Niels de Klerk said:
Although a display full of widgets, buttons and whistles will look cool, it certainly won’t contribute to the wife acceptance factor.
Well, maybe something is wrong with my wife but she rejects the Neeo completely as it is user unfriendly and slow. She is nerved by the starting recipe circles and the by the fact that if she wants to do certain things, she has to swipe a lot to different pages. She hates that some commands are not executed every time and she doesn't know why. Her opinion about the Neeo: useless and expensive.
She is perfectly okay with my self made remote tough. And here lies the major difference: I can design the screen how she will. Put whatever UI tool (switch, color picker, slider, etc.) she request on the screen, where ever she wants it and change quickly if she complains. The speed of the Neeo is slow if you count the seconds required by the recipe circle, the time needed to find the correct page and the not executed commands. My video shows clearly how the smaller screen of the Neeo could be used much more effectively as the current way of Neeo.
Niels de Klerk said:
d isplaying HTML based widget for instance is just not possible. Although the app is HTML based the remote is not. The remote won’t be able to render HTML with the performance we and NEEO would except as usable.
Honestly I don't believe that the hardware of the remote could not handle simple HTML pages. We could argue about the use of images as icon faces but vector icons should be absolutely no problem. (As they are no problem now.)
please don't think of HTML as your average Web site. These are memory eating monsters but a simple HTML page (as used by FHEM's Tablet UI) is small and fast and all the necessary pages are in the LAN. This is just an example of how a page description could be done. I don't need HTML if Neeo has a better idea to design and use the interface.
The UI is currently hard coded in the firmware and that is a major limitation.
The speed in which the smart home business is evolving is amazing and the development speed of the Neeo is a snail compared to it. There is a point where the development needs to be stopped and the achieved goals needs to be evaluated. If it's clear that with the current development direction the product will never catch up to the ever increasing demands then someone has to pull the plug and start the process over.
There is another things to consider as well: a happy customer is not the same as one who bought its gear for a lot of money and sticks to it due to the high price although he is frustrated and unhappy...Reply
Steve Kozma The remote has 32MB of RAM (source) so HTML pages are not an option. Also if you sniff the traffic you'll see what's the format of the pages, pretty old tech, I would say.
I agree with you on most parts and also with your wife, there are simply many technical gaps however I believe the soft gaps are even bigger.
I imagine if someone today would have to buy a phone and find "workarounds" as someone suggested above to make phone calls, surf the web or take photos. I am saying a phone because a 400$ smartphone is doable these days.
I think it's an outrageous product with a high price tag for what it has to offer. The hardware itself is less than 50$ to make, and then you have >300$ for ....
I myself wasn't able to use NEEO in my setup with a home theater system, TV, Apple TV, Hue lights in a reliable, predictable way. I would have to spend hours and hours just to setup it and still I wouldn't be able to do the things I want/can do with the normal remote. Please don't tell me that the workaround is to navigate 50 screens, use my phone and the remote to just to turn up the volume on my home cinema system.Reply
Alessandro deGol said:
The remote has 32MB of RAM (source) so HTML pages are not an option. Also if you sniff the traffic you'll see what's the format of the pages, pretty old tech, I would say.
Thanks for the info, I must admit I didn't know that. 😕 The fine design has blended me and I thought the internal hardware can keep up with the high end exterior. This begs the question why would someone use a relatively high res display with that small amount of RAM? The Neeo is a 3-4 year old design and even in that time memory prices where not expensive.
Anyway, your info puts an end to my quest to try to get the most out of Neeo. It will join the other failed tech gadgets on my shelf. 😔Reply