Roccat's Power-Grid: Smartphone Meets Keyboard
Controlling your PC from a smartphone is certainly not a new idea. I've used remote desktop software like Splashtop to save my butt on more than one occasion, allowing me to access critical information on my home computer from a wireless device. A number of mobile applications, like MSI's Afterburner APP for Android and iOS, are designed to interface with PC hardware. There are even apps designed to turn your device into a game controller by harnessing your phone's G-sensors to act like a Wii remote.
While appearing unrelated at first glance, PC peripheral interfaces that make use of LCD screens with fully customizable graphics are more accessible than ever before; consider Mad Catz' impressive S.T.R.I.K.E. 7 keyboard and its cool VENOM TFT-LCD touchscreen and user-programmable game profiles. Another product that comes to mind is the ~$1000 Optimus Popularis keyboard that lets you display a custom image on an LCD screen behind every single key.
Someone at Roccat got the idea to bring all of this functionality together in a single application for smartphones and tablets. The software, which is called Power-Grid, allows users to control their PCs with a mobile device over a LAN using Wi-Fi. It was just released to the public, but we've been playing with the beta version for some time now in preparation.
At first glance, it seems a little out of place for the company: why would a PC peripheral hardware company want to get involved in mobile phone software? But consider the number of PC users that have a smartphone; instead of purchasing a separate, expensive peripheral device with customizable LCD display, what if you could just leverage your phone or tablet to get the job done? The potential is undeniable, and the best part is that Roccat wants to deliver the basic software for free with four start-up-tab slots for applications (called Grids). This means that users will have access to all sorts of basic functionality and custom application controls without paying a cent. Premium features and the ability to have more Grids (applications) available at the same time will cost extra.
On top of charging for premium software features, Roccat is bringing new hardware to market that is designed to augment and support your smartphone as a PC interface device. The new Phobo keyboard has a built-in smartphone dock that charges your phone and lets you take calls via your gaming headset, while the Apuri 2.0 is built to hold and charge your smartphone as an interface device beside your existing keyboard. Both products are expected to launch after Q4 of 2013.
As for smartphone support, Roccat is currently supporting iOS- and Android-based devices, though we're hearing that a Windows Phone version is in development. The company also plans to support tablets in a more official contest. We're already running the Android app on a Google Nexus 7 tablet with no problems at all.
That’s enough background; let's look at the Power-Grid app, starting with the basic bundled Grids. After that, we'll look at some of the extra Grids made by Roccat and the beta testing community. Finally, we'll show you how easy it is to make a custom Grid for any application you like.