The universal remote has been around since 1985 and while it’s seen a few changes over the years, it’s largely functioned in the same way. Caavo is different. It’s a universal remote that takes the whole concept and changes it for the better. It utilises modern technologies such as voice control and can even tie together numerous set-top boxes for a cohesive smart home experience.
Caavo is a name that might not be familiar, but it’s essentially a US-based start-up that has been working on a reimagining of the universal remote since 2015. It has received quite a lot of buzz from the wider industry, with Sky having invested $2 million in the start-up as recently as October 2016. There’s quite a pedigree behind the scenes too, with the team consisting of tech veterans Andrew Einaudi, Ashish Aggarwal and Vinod Gopinath. Andrew previously worked at Microsoft on the Xbox team, while Ashish is a Sling Media alumnus. The company was founded by Blake Kriokrian, who passed away last year – although his background includes inventing the popular Slingbox TV streaming media device.
So without all that investment, promise and talent – what exactly is Caavo? Well, it’s essentially a smart universal remote paired with an HDMI switch. That may not sound all that exciting, but thanks to the underlying software it can fully understand the devices users are connecting to it and offer even smarter control of those devices.
What that means is that users who are connecting an Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, Roku or Chromecast, no longer need to choose the best set-top box to suit their needs. If someone wants to watch the latest episode of Suits then they shouldn’t have to hunt around to see which streaming service has that episode and which set-top box supports that streaming service. Instead, a user can ask Caavo to queue up the episode and it will search for the best location to watch it, magically switching to whatever input and streaming service that is required.
Search functionality on a set-top box isn’t exactly new, both the Apple TV and Amazon Fire TV support it – although search across several set-top boxes is. That’s not even the best thing about Caavo either, with the device also acting as a standard universal remote, albeit one with voice control.
Using Alexa, or the included remote, users can simply walk into a room and ask Caavo to watch Guardians of the Galaxy and that’s it. No more interaction is required. The TV will turn on, as will the sound system, and then the film will begin playing. Behind the scenes the Caavo will have located the film and switched to the correct input, meaning the user doesn’t have to do anything other than say what they want to watch.
At this moment in time Caavo doesn’t have some of the smart home functionality that comes with Harmony or RTI, but for simple AV switching it’s amongst the simplest solution currently available.
In terms of specs, it boasts eight HDMI inputs, IR blaster, two USB ports, Ethernet, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. Caavo can currently be controlled using Alexa, although Google Home support is coming. The device can also be had in a choice of woodgrain finishes.
All that comes at a price. Caavo is expected to land in the US for around $400, and UK pricing or availability has yet to announced. That means it’s more expensive than Logitech Harmony, but is still considerably more affordable than RTI.