is a blog about design, technology and culture written by Khoi Vinh, and has been more or less continuously published since December 2000 in New York City. Khoi is currently Principal Designer at Adobe, Design Chair at Wildcard and co-founder of Kidpost. Previously, Khoi was co-founder and CEO of Mixel (acquired by Etsy, Inc.), Design Director of The New York Times Online, and co-founder of the design studio Behavior, LLC. He is the author of “Ordering Disorder: Grid Principles for Web Design,” and was named one of Fast Company’s “fifty most influential designers in America.” Khoi lives in Crown Heights, Brooklyn with his wife and three children. Refer to the advertising and sponsorship page for inquiries.+
Nearly eight years ago I wrote about what I called “The Living Room Problem,” which can be roughly defined as that mess of cables behind your television and the ragtag collection of remote controls lost in the cushions of your couch. I described it as more than just an inconvenience of untidy hardware, though; it also entailed random interfaces and widely disparate models for accessing content, all of which have served to make home viewing a complete mess for a decade or more now. I also surmised that the only possible solution would be an industry consortium of standards, which seemed unlikely then and remains unlikely now. But a new startup may prove me wrong by showing that the answer, in fact, is a new level of technological innovation.
Caavo, which was just announced yesterday, is a new set top box into which you plug your other set top boxes in order to unite your viewing experience. Rather than building software integrations into your Apple TV, Roku, Xbox, Amazon Fire Stick etc., Caavo actually uses computer vision to read the video signal and operate those other systems for you. So if you’ve got a library of purchased content on your Apple TV, say, you don’t need to worry about bringing it into the Caavo system; Caavo goes out and gets it for you and presents it for you immediately.
The system is also capable of navigating content apps on its own and finding what you need for you based on voice queries, so you don’t have to dig into menus yourself. And it consolidates all of your remotes into one remote—we’ve heard that before, I know. But this could be the real thing because every previous attempt in this unification space has suffered from not knowing whether a third-party system is on or off. Caavo knows, and that makes all the difference. This video of the product’s debut at the Code Media conference shows Caavo in action, and it’s impressive.
It looks like a tremendous amount of engineering has gone into seamlessly bridging these systems that, because of various licensing complexities, were specifically designed not to work with one another. I’m really looking forward to giving it a try when it debuts in June, though it will be priced at US$399 so I’ll wait for in-depth reviews first. Read more about it at caavo.com and at theverge.com.+