TV remotes have the astounding distinction of having about half as many keys as my keyboard and one thousandth the functionality. The problem stems from the (perceived) need to present every possible function for your TV, DVD player, ect, at a glance. Back when TVs had no form of menu or interface whatsoever this was necessary, but now a TV is functionally a large monitor, often with a rich menu system for both hardware settings and content selection.
But the remotes are still the same. 50 buttons and all most people use are the navigation buttons, numbers, and content controls like play/pause/ect. Part of the remaining problem is the old, persistent model of channels being just numbers. No interface to select them, no menus, just pick a number and remember it.
Thinking outside the (set top) box, how can a remote be modernized? Apple has taken a stab at it in a way with their own remote for Apple devices, benefiting from the device's native "soft" interfaces and simple controls, presenting only navigation keys and the forward/back buttons for content manipulation.
Roku has a similar but more complex remote that also benefits from a soft interface. Roku's remote has navigation keys in addition to slightly more content-manipulation keys (a pause button).
These super simple remotes seem ideal but how can such modern UX concepts be merged with the hulking system of features and past conventions that is the traditional TV?