Keeping Your Line Of Sight
Imagine yourself in an amazing entertainment room. You've got your large, flat screen television, surround sound speaker system, and high-definition Blu-ray player. Much of your equipment is installed inside a heavy-duty console cabinet for storage underneath your television, preventing the room from looking overly cluttered. Add to this a comfortable couch, popcorn at the ready, and several infrared remotes on that side table right next to you. You may think you're all set, but what if you have trouble controlling your other connected devices with your remotes through the cabinet? What if you have additional speakers or perhaps an additional monitor in an adjacent room and your infrared signals just aren't strong enough to reach that far? Just the same, what if that console cabinet supporting your television and housing your Blu-ray player is made from heavy wood and fully encloses your equipment, making it difficult for the remote signals to reach everything? For any and all of these reasons, an infrared remote extender can help solve this problem for you.
An infrared remote (IR) extender, also referred to as a repeater, has a receiver designed to pick up the infrared signal from your remote control and relay it via radio waves to the device being controlled. Considering our large-doored cabinet, a potential difficulty arises with the infrared signal's ability to reach your Blu-ray player when it's tucked away and out of sight. While it certainly makes the room look neat and tidy, your remote's infrared signal may not reach the player as well as it would if its line of sight to the device was more direct. As an answer to this signal obstruction between the remote and Blu-ray player, the infrared remote extender introduces a radio relay between the remote control and the device. An infrared transmitter on the destination device will mimic the original infrared signal so that your Blu-ray player can interpret the remote command as it normally would without the use of an extender. As mentioned earlier, this is particularly useful in situations where a remote's line of sight is obstructed or if you plan to control equipment from another room and require an extended signal range.
An IR repeater system has several components, including a target, connection block, and emitter. The target is a fancy way of referring to an infrared receiver, which converts those infrared light waves transmitted from your remote control to electrical signals for distribution. The emitter (or IR blaster) converts these electrical signals back to modulated infrared band signals where they are retransmitted by light waves to the device you're attempting to control (i.e. our Blu-ray player inside the cabinet). The IR blaster is typically attached to the destination device over its receiver port. As its name suggests, the connection block is the main hub keeping all parts of the receiver system wired together and interconnected. The connection block makes such systems easy to expand and reconfigure, depending on your entertainment setup.
Extend Your Range
Like many products related to your particular entertainment setup, what you plan to use it for and the layout of your equipment will determine what type of infrared remote extender system is best. For example, if you own a large home with multiple monitors installed in adjacent rooms, then finding an IR extender with as long an infrared range as possible will be key, particularly if the signal coming from your remote's light emitting diode (LED) has to travel through walls and into cabinets where your equipment is stored. Some extenders offer a signal range of up to five or six hundred feet.
Simple installation is also key. Because you'll be working with a few different pieces and several cables, ensuring that the setup instructions are straightforward will get you up and running as quickly as possible.
If you have a lot of equipment in your home, then one or two emitters may not do the trick, since each piece of equipment needs its own dedicated emitter to receive infrared remote signals properly. Some extenders offer LED confirmation lights to let you know that the signal has been properly distributed. This comes in handy when dealing with several independent pieces of equipment located in different rooms.
Quick response time is another integral piece of the extender puzzle. If it takes forever for your extender to interpret and transmit signals to your equipment, then there's little point to using the extender in the first place. Response times should be seamless and barely noticeable.
The Evolution Of Infrared Remote Technology
The first remote control intended to control a television was developed by Zenith Electronics in 1950 and was called Lazy Bone. While the remote could turn a television on or off and change channels, it was attached to the television with a thick cable, making it a tripping hazard. By 1955, Zenith engineer Eugene Polley created the first wireless television remote called the Flash-matic, which used a directional flashlight to activate four control functions on a television. This design was problematic due to the interference from natural sunlight.
By 1956, Robert Adler invented the Zenith Space Command remote, which was based on the concept of using ultrasonic technology to change channels. Infrared devices eventually replaced the ultrasonic remotes by the early 1980s, ushering in a growing need and popularity for the IR remote extender. Both IR remotes and extenders are still in use today.