I’m going to be taking an in depth look at the Amulet voice remote control for Windows Media Center. Amulet contacted me and asked if I would like to look at an evaluation unit. As I always like to try new gadgets I said yes I would, thank you very much!
The concept is you can control and navigate around Windows Media Center using your voice, sound cool? well it is!
Firstly their website can be found here and I recommend you view the demo video here before reading my series of blog posts about this remote control! I believe you can purchase these remote controls already in the US and they will be launched in the UK soon, I don’t have any details of when and how much yet.
What’s in the box:
Well you get the remote control, a rechargeable battery for the remote, a USB lead to charge up the remote, software installation disk, a well written and easy to follow quick start guide and two cards that have the various voice commands you can use and the USB dongle that plugs in to the PC. A charging cradle for the remote to sit in might have been a nice option, but I guess that would push up the overall cost of the unit.
First impression of the remote control itself, is that it feels well made and a quality product, it looks good as well! The button layout is very similar to your standard MCE remote control. Most of the buttons are back-lit in white, except the number and teletext buttons at the bottom, as soon as you pick up the remote control it lights up automatically. The big circle thing at the top lights up red when you tilt the remote control upwards towards yourself, this means Amulet is listening to you and ready for your voice command.
One negative thing I have to say about the hardware is when you press any of the buttons they click, you hear a clicking sound. I would prefer them to be silent especially the directional arrows and OK button that get pressed allot, the clicking got to me after a while.
Whilst this remote control is not an advanced universal remote control like Harmony and the Pronto range it does have some universal remote control features, for example I was able to quickly and easily program it to control my HDTV’s volume up and down and TV power toggle. The four coloured teletext type buttons at the bottom can also be programmed to control other devices.
Eddy Carroll from Amulet explained this feature to me so I’ve quoted what he said about it below:
‘'The four coloured teletext keys at the bottom of the remote double as device keymap selection buttons. The default keymap is Media Center itself. You can train any of the keys in the other four keymaps by entering learning mode, then pressing a coloured key followed by the key you want to learn (e.g. press and release Red, then press Play, to learn the Play function on the red keymap). In normal use, you press Red to select the red keymap, and all remote buttons then follow the red keymap until you return to Media Center mode by pressing the green Start button.
So for example, you could program Red with the full set of TV buttons, blue with a DVD player or set-top box, yellow with your amplifier codes, etc. Memory for learnt commands is somewhat limited, so you won't be able to fully populate every keymap, but there is certainly enough for the basic functions.”
I certainly wasn’t expecting this level of support for controlling other devices so this appears to be very good!
Setup was easy, insert the already pre-charged battery in to the remote control, plug the USB dongle into the back of the PC, no drivers were required from me, it just installed itself as an audio device. I then inserted the software CD which auto runs and starts the setup.
After setup Amulet starts to scan your media files in the background behind the Media Center window it launches.
Amulet have their own scanning software that indexes your media content. By default Amulet only looks in the Windows 7 / WMP12 / Media Center library folders i.e. Music, Pictures, Videos etc. So if your like me and do not use the native 7MC movie library for your DVD’s etc, then Amulet won’t find these movies, you have to edit an .ini file to add in additional locations of your media content, for example that might be located on your WHS or NAS.
In part two we will be looking at what gets installed in to Media Center and how the Amulet add-in user interface looks and works.