Caavo is making several software improvements today to its Control Center, a voice-driven box that acts as a universal remote for all of your home theater devices. Before I get to those, it’s worth highlighting that the company is also changing up the product’s pricing structure. The Control Center device will now cost $59.95 (down from $99.95). But the mandatory service plans are going up in price: paying monthly will now be $3.99 / month (previously $1.99), the annual plan jumps to $39.99 (from $19.99), and lifetime service will now run $129.99, whereas it was previously $59.99.
These subscriptions are required for the Caavo’s core features like voice commands and universal search to work. You can buy the Control Center and ignore the service plan side, but you’ll be losing out on its more advanced features. (It’ll still serve as a universal remote for all of your devices, though.) This sounds pretty close to TiVo’s business model, and the confusing split between device and service plan was one aspect of the Control Center that Nilay took issue with in his review.
With that out of the way, let’s move on to the new software tricks: Caavo is adding a Family Care feature, which will allow parents “to check in and monitor” what’s happening on any TV that the Control Center is hooked up to right from their phone. Remember, the Caavo uses machine vision for its universal remote prowess, so it’s not hard for the device to show you what it’s seeing on-screen. The company calls this monitoring feature Telescope, and it says “consumer information is not shared or sent to the cloud, and the use of the feature is entirely optional.”
As an extension of this monitoring, you can also configure the Caavo to send you notifications if a certain type of content — say, R-rated movies — is playing on a Control Center, and you can even send messages to any TV linked to the device.
Caavo is also adding the ability for its mobile iOS app to control the Control Center remotely. So if you’ve bought one for your parents or less tech-savvy people in your life, now you can turn the TV on or off, switch input sources, tune to a specific channel, open apps, or start playing content using your phone. Control Center device owners must grant permission for anyone to take this level of control on mobile.
Caavo is also adding Sonos support to the Control Center’s repertoire. “Using your TV, you can skip to the next song, pause, and play music on any Sonos speaker throughout your home.” A Sonos tile shows up right in the Control Center menu, and when you’re playing music through one of the company’s speakers, the album art is displayed on-screen.
You can definitely see where Caavo is trying to go with the Control Center, continually adding new devices that it is capable of learning how to manage. Hopefully the service plans won’t dissuade people from trying it out, as by all accounts the Control Center is pretty great at doing just what it’s supposed to.