By Nick Raymond, Make: Labs Engineering Intern
The Rii Mini i6 2nd 2.4GHz Wireless Keyboard + Universal Remote Control is a nifty gadget that brings organizations and tranquility to your barrage of remotes and controllers. Not only does it work as a universal remote for your TV, cable/satellite box, DVD player, and stereo, but it has a full back-lit QWERTY keyboard and touchpad to boot. You’ll be able to enter text into search menus and browse through menu screens like never before, all from the comfort and convenience of this small and handsome-looking controller.
You can also connect the remote to your laptop or computer via the USB dongle. The remote is compatible with Windows XP/Vista/7 as well Mac and Linux. I tested the remote on a Thinkpad laptop running XP. The laptop is connected to a CNC milling machine (look for the full review of the CNC machine in our upcoming special MAKE Ultimate Kit Guide out in November) and runs CNC software to control the machining operations. I simply plugged in the USB dongle and was able to jog the axes and start the software with the remote. This makes setting up the machine much easier, as I often find myself running back and forth between the computer and the machine in order to make small adjustments before machining a part. As a bonus, I can keep the remote in my back pocket when not in use. But you don’t have to own a CNC machine just to utilize the versatility of this remote.
As an experiment I plugged the remote into an iMac and ran Adobe Illustrator to test how it would handle a more complex program interface. While a little small, I used the track pad to control the various tools within the software and all of the keyboard shortcuts worked like a charm. When plugging into a USB port on a Mac, the remote will not immediately be identified. A window will pop up and prompt you to “touch the key to the left of the Shift button” but there is no such key. Simply go through the prompt, smash on some buttons until the Mac gives up and says “unable to identify keyboard, please select type of keyboard from list.” Click on the ANSI option and off you go.
I also tested the remote with a Sony PS3, and just as advertised, the USB capability works from the start. You can easily navigate the login screen or surf the web, which is great if you use your console as your primary entertainment system. Inside the box you get the remote, small USB dongle, a USB chord, and instructions for programming the remote. The USB cable is used to rechange the lithium-ion battery, and there is a battery light on the remote to indicate when it needs to be charged.
The universal remote is a handy feature, but I foresee unlimited possibilities with the USB keyboard for DIY robotics and home hacking. It has never been easier to wire up a computer and run a simple program to automate the lights or take control of your heating or cooling system, and you could simply use this keyboard for the interface. Or consider how great it would be to control your robot and send commands with the use of a full QWERTY keyboard, or even find a hack to use the touchpad as the directional control. Lots of potential. You can find this online for about $60, well worth the cash in my opinion.