Re-Designing the NEEO Remote UI
I’ll be blunt: To me right now the NEEO interface feels confusing and rigid, unable to truly replace all those different remote controls lying on my coffee table. I spent a lot of thought why that’s the case. And I came up with these three points (that admittedly would mean a radical re-design in some places). But lets be bold. Here we go:
[EDIT] This post fleshes out the new features with quite a bit of detail. But for a start, looking just ad the three headlines (without all the bells and whistles) would be enough. [/EDIT]
1. Customizable Screens
Currently, a screen with rooms leads to a screen with recipes which leads to a screen with some pages of controls (such as TV-Channels, Shortcuts, etc.). I always have to start with the room selection (even if there is just one room)... I cannot put recipes on the shortcuts screen…That is a lot of different concepts and very little control for the user!
I would suggest a way simpler, yet more powerful concept:
Composable Screens with Sections and Pages
One can divide the screen into different Sections which can be populated with anything - recipes, control-buttons, sliders…
Each Section can hold several pages that can be swiped through (as is the case today).
In a recipe one can define which Screen and therefore which Sections and Contents shall be visible afterwards. One could even create a recipe to do just that – change what’s visible on the screen…
As a practical example of this new system, I would put my favorite recipes in a narrow top section that will always stay visible. In a much larger lower Section I would show whatever controls are currently useful.
Tip: If you like the concept of rooms, you could easily recreate it by creating a starting Screen containing recipes, named after rooms, that each lead to another Screen containing each respective room’s recipes.
2. Re-Mapping Hardware Buttons
Similarly, for every Screen we can re-map what the different hardware buttons are doing. I might want the Menu button to do something different depending on whether I am watching Netflix or TV.
This, however, might become a bit confusing for people unfamiliar with this particular setup (I will manage fine, but when friends come over, they might struggle). I see two ways to address this problem:
Tool-Tips: When enabled, whenever a hardware button is pressed, a little tool tip slides into view from the bottom of the screen, explaining the mapping of said button (if specified, for Single-Press, Double-Press and Long-Press).
Help-Screen: In the settings menu of the NEEO Remote (three little bars on the top right) or in a similar menu directly on the Tool-Tip you can invoke the Help Screen. It will show you all the hardware buttons with their mapped functions.
The Help Screen is divided in three tabs, showing the mapping of the buttons when they are pressed Once, Twice or Long (the remote might even cycle through those tabs automatically (until the user changes tabs himself) to make the alternative mappings more evident).
This Help Screen will be quite tricky to get right, because there is very little space. It is therefore vital, that one can manually change the text displayed to explain a mapped function to something that does make personal sense (the default name of a function might not always be that descriptive).
3. An IF also needs an ELSE
With a simple IF statement one can create quite a few recipes. And the recent introduction of Virtual Switches brought even more freedom. But what is really needed for NEEO to reach its full potential is an ELSE statement.
When telling NEEO what to do IF some condition is true, it is quite often just as important to give it an alternative plan to execute when the condition is false.
For example, when hitting the Netflix recipe:
IF the home entertainment system is off, run the “Switch System On” recipe first, then wait for five seconds and run the “Switch to Netflix” recipe afterwards.
ELSE run the “Switch to Netflix” recipe straight away.
Now I don’t even have to switch the system on first. I can just hit that Netflix button and get straight to the streaming pleasure. That’s a true smart remote!
Of course for this to work it would be very beneficial, If recipes can be run within other recipes as described above. Because then I can define those basic functions just once and simply reuse them in other recipes, saving a lot of programming time. And when I optimize one of those basic recipes, those changes filter through to all other recipes (because they are just referencing it). Makes sense, right?
In a further update even nested IF-Statements at various points in a recipe might be possible. But for this to work the recipe-setup UI would need some major rework...
I know all those suggestions of mine would mean a radical re-design of the whole interface. But it would finally allow me to fully customize my NEEO to do everything I want and at long last truly put away all those other remote controls for good!
What do you think? Are these good ideas? Where could they be improved further? I’d love to hear your thoughts!
Much applause for a great post! Neeo should take note that cutomization has been on the wish list since day one of introduction of the Neeo Remote. Since everyone will have a different person preference for customizing, the bottom line is to provide full customization of every function, hard & soft buttons. There are too many assumptions for the preferred user experience.
The basic screens are a good starting point but if there is something on the screen one does not use then one should be able to delete and replace with their preferred choice.
Keep up the great input!
Thank you for the nice comments, guys.
I do find that most of the time in life it is desirable to make a system as simple as possible without losing too much capability.
Having just one class - Screens - that can be populated with any content necessary (recipes, control-buttons, TV-Channels, pre-defined sets of controls, hardware button mappings), would give the system a beautiful simplicity. And still you could achieve anything you can today... and so much more!
And just to be clear: I do love NEEO. Its an amazing product. The hardware is just stunning. And the UI is very elegant and pretty. It just does not yet deliver on its promise of replacing all other remotes for good... and with the above suggestions it finally would!
The need for something like the re-design proposed above became clear to me once again yesterday, when I turned on my entertainment system - via recipe and not the hardware power button, since the latter doesn't trigger the required recipe :-(
I would like the remote to show all my other recipes (Netflix, Amazon, YouTube, Bluray) after switching on the system. But in order to be able to control the TV (volume, menu, etc) I need to put the command "Show TV controls" at the end of my recipe. Otherwise I will not be able to control anything with the hardware buttons.
So now I have to press the Home button first to get back to the screen with my recipes again to start another service like Netflix.
With my suggested redesign I would just have to press one single button (wouldn't even have to manually start the system first) to get to Netflix or YouTube.
I would very much like to see someone from the NEEO team comment on the above proposal, where they see benefits, where they see drawbacks / problems. I might be overlooking something. But in my mind the proposed system would work better in every way.
I completely agree that the surface or the user guidance from my personal view needs a complete revision.
The reasons why NEEO failed the WAF test and is not used by the family?
It is far too cumbersome to use, at least it has no advantage for the family or makes things easier, no it makes things more complicated.
A remote is usually located in a room with mainly the devices that are available in the room. It is thus e.g. not understandable for my wife why you have to make life even more complicated and first to select a room before you can proceed further.
After NEEO already has so few keys it should at least be possible to switch lamps by a call directly on from the main screen.
Only to press the room, then wait until a superfluous circle indicates that a recipe is started to turn on a lamp is so complicated that it just my wife does not use it. On each other remote I press either a button and the lamp is on or I press a button on the display and the lamp is on and does not have to dig through menus to be able to turn a lamp on / off separately.
It would, therefore, be urgently necessary:
- The ability to hide the room menu level if needed completely, to be able to directly access recipes, for example, if the remote is used in only one room.
- At least for the lamps to create the possibility that they also can be switch directly from the main screen without having to wait for a start screen of the recipe is displayed. With any light switch or any other remote, the light is instantly on when a button is pressed
- Last but not least, the whole effort does not even make sense if not even the necessary functions are available. You click through menus to turn on a lamp at the end, but you can not even adjust the color.
For all these reasons, NEEO is lying around unused by my family, unfortunately.
Fully agree on the ELSE statement and hardware remapping (the latter has been requested in several posts already).
On the UI, I like the fact I can have several recipes active at the same time and can easily switch between them. It took me a lot of workarounds to get there and nobody besides myself would understand how my NEEO was configured but that is the price we pay for the extremely easy setup.
Some of your suggestions are obviously welcome in all situations though:
1) hide the room level if there is only one room
2) allow recipes and rooms at the same level, e.g. have the light recipe at room level (and indeed the starting recipe circle is pointless in this case as the recipe doesn’t actually start anything)
But before we get there there are many easier things that need addressing:
1) allow icon changes
2) allow text changes (or at least hide them)
3) consistency between app and remote
Me as a UI/UX designer was also very disappointed with the amount of customization. I like your proposal. Also a desktop app for Mac/Windows to set things up would be amazing (I hate the UX on setting the stuff up on my iPhone)…
Just the fact that I can't change the icons drives me crazy not to speak about my girlfriend…
Another thing that annoys me is that I cant setup my timezone! We usually wakeup Mo-Sa at 7am but suddenly the Stereo turns on on Sunday! I had to get rid of my wake up recipe.
The Neeo remote has such a nice screen but what has been done is very, very basic and instead of improving on this you guys will release a new pro version with some other half done features?
I'm thinking of switching to Control4 just because the Neeo feels like an expensive undone product.
Hi, Jakob Winter.
Thanks for being active and coming up with such nice ideas, that sure was a lot of effort. We appreciate it that you spent a lot of positive thoughts on NEEO. 🙂
1. We are thinking about the favorite recipes/commands which you solved with the sections. We have a similar but not exactly identical solution, it is just a bit too early to let you know exactly how we are solving this, but we absolutely understand your needs.
As you can see in previous releases, we try to get more features for customization in every release (for example rearranging slides), and we will be allowing more and more customization for future releases.
The idea voting section gives a good overview of all that highly requested features. Since you've also mentioned the opportunity to have recipes as shortcuts, I'll also bring this voting to your attention.
I always have to start with the room selection (even if there is just one room).
Please have a look at this voting as well.
2. Re-Mapping of the Hardware Buttons is also very high requested. Please vote for this here.
The help screen (including the Tool Tip slide) is a really nice idea, I love it. We will definitely check that with our UI designer.
3. I know that Patrick is the very first person to immediately agree with your desire for an “OR” and “ELSE” in the recipes. Me too, and I already gave you my vote for advanced IF-statements. Thanks a lot for bringing this to the Idea Voting section as well.
Jakob Winter You have my full support: I was pointing out the poor Neeo UI 8 months ago and situation seems unchanged. No way to design a user friendly HMI for lighting control or to organize screens like on a 15 years old Philips Pronto or a 10 years old Nevo S70. So I am still relying on a Windows CE (!!!) based remote to control the house and AV systems until Neeo takes care of its users requests instead of trying to cover all devices in the market.
Exending compatibility is useless if we cannot implement it on a usable UI...
I totally disagree on the price argument: come on, we are 10 years after the Nevo. You can find today a 80EUR device that runs 100x better than a 1000EUR computer of that time. And the software engineering and technology on the Nevo is so basic compared to Node.JS, bidirectional communication and all "intelligent" and up to date technology embedded in Neeo brain/remote. You can find remote apps for Android that do the job a Nevo did for low cost.
For me, it is just because Neeo team is blind and concentrates on innovative features that they do not take the time to implement basic features. Again, before being an evolved and user-friendly device, the Neeo must be a real HMI.
It is as if a car manufacturer released today a a car with plenty of technological assistance systems but forgets to provide the wheels and the engine. This is where we are with the Neeo.
So I am still sticking to my outdated Nevo, expecting Neeo team to wake up and start working on the essential.
The most frustrating from my point of view is that nobody knows which feature they are working on. Or what they are planning at all.
Yes the adding of new commands per device works well and quick. But a lot of topics are going since the start of Neeo (be able to decide if the device should turn of, when I switch recipes is just one of them) and no word about actual status or something else. Often this can’t be topics of rocket since. Lacking Bluetooth support bothers me as well, as this was one of the features announced.
The need for a Raspi for real smart home functionality is also not what I expected when I ordered this piece of hardware.
To be honest for this amount of money I hoped to get more frequent updates and improvements, but it seems as there using the capacity more for Neeo pro development...
See how a device can be developed efficiently in a collaborative way at https://www.numworks.com/resources/engineering/software/architecture/
They just develop a simple calculator. They describe the hardware/sofware bricks, they provide the architecture, the logic, they expose the layers and provide SDK so anyone is able to work on any level from harware to software. It is just a calculator. But see how rich it is.
And compare to our poor Neeo environment and SDK: anything you want to do differently from the Neeo logic requires tricky and non-satisfactory arrangements just because the core misses flexibility.
I want the different layers of the Neeo documented and accessible for customization. I want to be able to customize the UI layer and the navigation between screens. I want to add IR data or any protocol on my own (mostly possible but a bit tricky with Node.JS). I want to map the hard buttons to any command or any script. I want at least the basic programming that was possible on a Philips Pronto or Nevo SL/S70 15 years ago.
I want to reduce click steps in the UI/UX to run activities, to control a light dimmer or to configure audio and video renderers in my house.
I want Neeo to stop telling me pretentiously that my devices are stupid whereas Neeo system is certainly far more stupid for the moment as it does not provide any usable feature.
Neeo can continue providing its "automated intelligent setup" which performs a default setup for non-experienced users but we need access to the bricks to enrich environment by our own and make that expensive piece of hardware usable.
I suspect the main reason of Control4 to buy NEEO was to kill a competitor. So NEEO making the code open source and letting the community tinker with it is rather unlikely (although they might avoid a class action suit with it). But if they did open up the software... how complicated would some of the above features be?
I am not a coder, so I might be way off here. But to me it seems some of the changes I described should be fairly easy to implement and mostly on the UI side. What we already have is:
- List of recipes
- Lists of device-specific functions
- Interface with several pages that you can swipe through, after you chose "Show Controls" at the end of a recipe.
Right now there is only one of those "Controls" screens per device. They control both the hardware mapping of buttons and the shortcuts / favourites / etc. shown on the display.
Access to all those elements listed above is very restricted and rigit. A few simple tweaks could change that system in a spectacular way:
- Call those "Controls" just Screens and allow to create as many as you like
- Allow placement of any recipe, any device-specific function or any Screen on any page of a Screen
- Allow Parent-Child relationship of screens so the "Home" button knows where to go.
Now we can get rid of "Rooms". They can simply be re-created by creating a Screen with just recipes on it. Similarly, the "Welcome" screen can be set up with this method.
And as a bonus, since a Screen already comes with the mapping of hardware-buttons, I can decide to have my TV-hardwar buttons active on the home screen!
So in my mind, these changes should be rather straigh forward. Not much has to be changed. I believe the code would get even cleaner since we can get rid of quite a few elements. And it would change the user experience quite dramatically.
What do you think? Any coders around here who want to comment? Any developer from the NEEO team? I would love to hear your thoughts!