Chris Barnardo, from The Wand Company, attracted record investment offers of £900,000 on The Dragon’s Den for his Harry Potter style remote control wand, after pitching it to the five entrepreneurs last year.
Nine months on and Pocket-lint caught up with Barnardo and his success story to see what’s happening, what business is like, and where he believes the remote control of the future is heading.
“It was the number one selling remote control at Amazon before Christmas and the number one gadget in Harrods as well,” he tells us, clearly pleased with the events of the last year and the sales ahead of Christmas.
And rightly so, Barnardo says he has sold around 70,000 wands so far with the hope of selling even more in the coming months.
“We created the wand because it was cool. Everyone has a little kid inside them and gadgets let that out.”
It’s the idea, explains our wizard, that we all have an adult, a teenager, and a child within us. Supposedly when Mrs Pocket-lint shouts at you for leaving your socks on the bedroom floor, that’s you being the child and her being the adult, but if she was to moan about having to pick them up then she is being the teenager. Either way Barnardo believes his wand simply “unlocks the child” in you.
The Kymera Magic Wand allows up to 13 gestures, allowing you to control basic functions of your television, and now Mac, as you thrust, pull, push and swipe your way through a menu system as if you were Harry Potter or Hermione Granger - something the Dragon's were impressed with when they turned their attention onto Barnardo for the BBC TV Show.
"I took Beta Blockers in an attempt to slow me down", he admits explaining his ordeal with the Dragons. "It's very different from what you see on the telly. You go into a studio and then they bombard you with questions for a good couple of hours trying to get a rise out of you."
For those that don't remember the show that Barnardo appeared on, Bannatyne offered up £200,000 for double the equity (the usual game). Only after some haggling and the threat of the other Dragon's wanting to get in on the action was a deal made for the original pitch, with the promise that if they didn't perform as promised the granite-willed Scotsman would get more of the company in return.
“The reason we chose it to look like a wand was because it was cool and allowed people to get into the gadget without really seeing it as a gadget”.
Early prototypes were made of wood, but that proved not be cost effective, while a slim metal rod, which it was hoped would appeal to the gadget fraternity, was deemed too exclusive.
“People who buy it as a remote can be disappointed,” acknowledges Barnardo, before adding that “those who buy it as a wand love it.”
So does this mean that we will all be swishing our way to change the channel or turn up the volume in the future? Chances are it won't, but gestures will play a big part.
Before Barnardo created the Kymera Magic Wand he came up with the All-4-Ones Kameleon remote control. That remote racked up sales of 100 million units in 2 years thanks to its wealth of programming options and bright blue glowing interface that made you feel like you were apart of Tron, however that's not the direction that Barnardo's still looking to go.
“Gesture based remote controls are the future,” he tells Pocket-lint with confidence.
So Kinect for Xbox 360 for all of us? Not just yet our wizard explains:
“Kinect does show you the future, but on its own it’s not there yet. The voice commands are very computational and not very intuitive."
What's to come, says Barnardo, is around 3D environments, voice and gesture control - something that's held back by computer science still struggling to understand “intention”.
“It will be a difficult day for the human race once computers get it,” he explains. “Kinect is just the start of what is possible.”
That idea of "getting it” is a future where you’ll eventually be able to ask the TV what’s on and what’s worth watching, and it will tell you. While that technology is already starting to surface in offerings like Technicolor’s MediaNavi or Rovi, your TV being able to understand your intention via voice will still be hard. So what will the remote of the future be like?
“Anything that requires more detail and thought than we have now, isn’t going to last.”
This is something that new TV companion tablets like the Viera Tablet from Panasonic and the Sky Remote iPad app will need to bear in mind. So will these new companion devices be the future, or will the simplicity of the wand strike through?
But before we can ask Barnardo any more questions about the promise of new wands with new features, he waves his magic wand and poof he vanishes.