The wearable revolution is upon us! This is something we believe will be great for Unified Remote since it is all about convenience. The goal has always been to create the one and only remote you need. However if you can not find the remote you need what’s the point then?
That is why we are putting Unified Remote on your wrist.
We have been looking into several different wearable platforms like Pebble that have an unofficial plugin for Unified Remote that you find here. However the first to get official support is Android Wear.
The challenges of small devices
Obviously there are several challenges to overcome when you design an app for a small device. However we did not want to limit the amount of features available to the user. The goal is that you will be able to do everything that is possible in the phone version from the watch. Even the mouse is available. In this beta release this is mostly true however there are some limitations.
Even if you can do everything we believe most people will not use the full app. Because that will in most cases take more time that finding the phone and pressing the correct button. We have solved this problem in two different ways.
The big thing in Android Wear are notifications. These are the easiest features to access unlike apps that are hidden. Also most users only use a very small subset of actions. That is why we created an permanent notification where you can open the app, do an action by voice (more on this later).
It is also possible to access the Quick Actions from the phone by swiping to the right in the notification. If you like you can of course remove this notification whenever you like by swiping to the end and press the “Mute app” button. To activate it again you need to open the Android Wear application on your phone and remove it from the muted apps.
The second way to interact with the Wear app is by voice. Since voice is one of the primary input methods on Android Wear it is natural that Unified Remote has good support for voice. This is however not a trivial thing to achieve because Android Wear voice APIs are designed for natural voice and not for finding what application you like to use especially when the names of the applications are a bit strange. So we needed to create a method that would be able to guess what remote you like to use even if the voice APIs did not give the correct names.
What we ended up doing is evaluate the string coming from the voice APIs with the help of several phonetic algorithms and then compare the results to the real names using edit distance. This method gives a reasonably accurate (estimated to over 95%) result as long as the Voice APIs returns something that is close to what you said.
Voice can be reached from any screen in the app. If you press the speak button in the notification or in the list of remotes you can say the name of a remote and that remote will then open or you can say a name and an action in that remote and the action will be executed. However if a remote is already open and you press the speak button the voice action is context aware and you only have to say the action.
We hope you are as excited about this as we are. The app is available in our Unified Remote beta channel. Let us know what you like and even more what you do not like.