What is a Remote Control Extender?

Geek!This is Robert Engelbardt’s submission for the HP Magic Giveaway. Feel free to leave comments for this article as you see fit – your feedback is certainly welcomed! If you’d like to submit your own how-to, what-is, or top-five list, you can send it to me. Views and opinions of this writer are not necessarily my own:

Geeks are usually interested in clever gadgets even when they don’t involve computers. Recently, I purchased a really slick device called a Remote Control Extender. This product eliminates the nuisance of having to point a remote control directly toward a TV, DVD player, cable box or other entertainment equipment for actuation and functioning.

Almost all standard remote controls utilize an infrared (IR) signal that requires a direct line-of-sight to the items being controlled. Any obstructions or excessive distance between remotes and the equipment will result in total failure or, very commonly, inconsistent operation.

When I read a description of a gadget that could modify almost any remote control to permit reliable operation without having to direct it towards the equipment, I had to determine how this device actually works. I found that it’s quite different from a typical IR extender.

This remote control extender consists of a small, clamshell-shaped base unit that looks like a miniature “flying saucer” powered by 117 VAC. Additional parts include two half-sized AAA batteries. One serves as a spare and another is inserted into a cylinder that’s shaped like a standard AA battery. Both batteries are rechargeable and the spare is maintained in a socket on the bottom of the clamshell where it’s under continuous charge. A tiny detector and RF transmitter is located in one end of the cylinder.

The designers of this device somehow determined that most IR remotes produce a signal that can be detected in their battery compartments – something I would never have thought possible!

The IR signal emitted by the remote control is converted to a radio frequency (RF) signal transmitting over a distance up to 100 feet. The user simply substitutes one of the two standard AA batteries in the remote with the half-size rechargeable battery and the detector/transmitter that’s placed in the AA sized cylinder. If the remote uses AAA batteries, the detector/transmitter and half-size AAA battery (already in an AAA-sized cylinder) is similarly inserted in the remote replacing one of the standard batteries..

The clamshell base unit has a small telescopic antenna to receive the RF signal from the modified remote where it’s converted back to an IR signal. This signal is used by the equipment to be controlled as is normally done with an unmodified remote control.

An extender cable with a small IR “eye emitter” on the other end is also provided. This cable plugs into the base unit and the emitter end is placed close to the IR detector in the equipment being controlled. The basic package includes a single emitter IR extender cable; however, optional cables can be obtained with multiple IR emitters for controlling more than one piece of equipment.

The Remote Control Extender permits controlling equipment with a remote from any location within 100 feet. No longer is it necessary to point the remote directly towards the equipment and, of course, the device obviates the difficulty of controlling items that are inside closed cabinets. In some cases, reliable controlling is even possible from another room!

Besides enjoying the convenience provided by the Remote Control Extender, my “geekiness” was heightened by the clever design of this device. Some very brilliant engineers created a low-cost solution to common remote control problems. Now if the device could also help the user find a “lost” remote, its benefits would be incalculable.