Students develop the ultimate universal remote
(Photo courtesy of Loqui)
The bane of nearly every family’s existence is the remote control. It somehow manages to submerge itself in the deepest couch cushion or the biggest armchair. Most of the time, it becomes a plaything for younger members of the family and gets lost in a toy trunk or under a dresser, never to be seen again.
Unwilling to go back to the days of channel-changing on the TV itself, this struggle results in the seemingly endless task of finding that ever-evading clicker.
Josh Heuser, a father of three, faced this problem on a near day-to-day basis. Plus, he often had to help his younger kids change the channel in their playroom since they did not know how to use the remote themselves. After a particularly challenging search for the remote, he looked down at his Android phone and thought about the ease the voice-search command adds to his life.
“Wouldn’t it be great if I could just say whatever I wanted my TV to do and it just did it?” he says, thinking aloud.
He and his wife, Kimberley, exchange a glance.
“Wow, that would be really nice to have,” she says. “We should develop something like that!”
Josh, a technological entrepreneurship and management senior, and Kimberly, a political science senior, joined forces with technological entrepreneurship and management senior Mikel Robinson to form Loqui.
After applying to the Edson Student Entrepreneur Initiative in March 2013 and winning, the team had the support and financial means to conduct market research, gain mentors and ultimately start creating a prototype for the Loqui system. They began to create voice-recognition software to control users’ TVs, Blu-ray players and home audio systems through simple voice commands, eliminating the need for any remotes.
While initially designed to rid users of a typical household annoyance, the co-founders later realized the true potential that Loqui has to help people.
“As we’ve developed this further, we really came to understand that there’s a lot more applications for this, such as for people with limited dexterity or handicapped people,” Josh says.
The team’s latest venture will aid this particular user base even further. Loqui team members are currently working on technology to control devices all around the house, including thermostats and ceiling fans.
But developing such a technology did not come without hurdles. The device required an entirely new technology platform, something that usually costs thousands of dollars to achieve. The team had to figure out how to make such a leap while still keeping the product cost-effective.
That’s where Tom Fulcher, a mentor from the Innovation Advancement Program at ASU, stepped in. He told Josh to search through his network and reach out to people he knew on social media to build the technology. This led to the co-founders adding new members to the Loqui team that helped turn their idea into a reality.
But with more and more technological advancements popping up each day, Loqui’s competitors are quickly growing.
“Cable companies are starting to offer a service like ours too but a lot of those competing products still require you to hold a remote in your hand,” Josh says. “But what happens if you misplace that remote? You’re right back where you started, looking for that remote.”
Plus, unlike technology developed by the Xbox 1, no Internet connection is required.
By April 1, the team hopes to finish the Loqui prototype for the home entertainment system, just in time for the next Edson deadline application. Once the prototype is finished, they plan to transition the software to other devices throughout the home.
“The [Edson] foundation has been extremely helpful by providing guidance, helping with project management and determining exact steps,” Josh adds. “They were also great to help bounce ideas off of and to get feedback on ideas that we had as a team."
Edson also connected the team with consulting services at ASU and mentors outside the community to help further the development of their product. The co-founders believe that the foundation’s experience and connections will help bring their product to the market and turn into the reality they want it to be.
In 2014, the Loqui Team ultimately wants to have their product available on the market for consumers. This ambition is progressed by the continual support and feedback that the three co-founders have received.
“Everybody’s been enthusiastic and excited about it,” Josh says. “It’s been very, very hard but because the idea is so good and the opportunities are so great, it’s something that we’ve stuck with.”