Gesture-Control Tech Set to Replace TV Remote Control

Lancaster University researcher Christopher Clarke selects a channel to watch by using his mug as a remote control. He moves his drink left or right until finding the station he wants to watch. (Photo: Lancaster University)

(CN) – You may soon be able to change the channel by lifting your cat or replay the game-winning touchdown by sticking your left elbow out, with new gesture-control technology that uses objects or users’ body parts to replace traditional remote-control devices – a development that could revolutionize media consumption and reduce frustrations felt by TV viewers worldwide.

Known as Matchpoint, the system uses movements to interact with screens, allowing a user to change channels, replay portions of a video or even access additional menus.

The system, which only requires a webcam, displays moving targets that orbit a circular widget in the corner of a screen. These targets correspond to various functions, which are controlled by body parts or objects that are synchronized by the user – a process the creators call “spontaneous spatial coupling.”

“Spontaneous spatial coupling is a new approach to gesture control that works by matching movement instead of asking the computer to recognize a specific object,” said Christopher Clarke, a PhD student at Lancaster University in the United Kingdom.

Clarke and Hans Gellersen, a professor at the university’s School of Computing and Communications, will present a paper detailing the system at the 30th User Interface Software and Technology conference in Canada on Oct. 30.

Unlike existing gesture-control technology, Matchpoint is not trained to identify a specific body part. Instead, the system looks for rotating movement, which does not require calibration or programmed knowledge of objects. This allows for greater flexibility and simplicity, functioning even when a user’s hands are full.

“Our method allows for a much more user-friendly experience where you can change channels without having to put down your drink or change your position, whether that is relaxing on the sofa or standing in the kitchen following a recipe,” Clarke said.

Additionally, users do not need to learn specific commands to control different functions, as is the case with some current gesture-controlled televisions. A user can also decouple at will.

When selecting settings adjustments, sliders appear. A user then moves a body part or an object in the direction indicated by the specific slider.

In addition to TVs, Matchpoint can also be used with a variety of other devices.

Multiple pointers can be used simultaneously, which, for example, allows more than one user to interact with a smart whiteboard at a time. A user can also incorporate both hands to expand, shrink or rotate, images.

Besides short-term couplings, users can also link stationary objects to controls, which, even when left idle for extended periods, will retain their command functions. Objects can be decoupled simply by moving them outside of the camera’s field of view.

“Everyday objects in the house can now easily become remote controls so there are no more frantic searches for remote controls when your favorite program is about to start on another channel, and now everyone in the room has the ‘remote,’” Clarke said.

The team believes Matchpoint can also expand accessibility for people who are unable to use traditional pointers, such as a mouse and keyboard.

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