Two engineers from the University of Wollongong, Australia (UOW), have developed a box that will replace your TV remote control. You'll just have to wave your hands to control your electronic gadgets. Their box contains a camera that recognizes your hand signals and translates them into electronic commands for your TV and other gadgets. Apparently, the controller's built-in camera can recognize seven simple hand gestures and work with up to eight different gadgets. The researchers say that their device is 100% accurate under normal lighting conditions and could be on sale within 3 years.
Above is a graphic indicating how the hand signal device works (Credit: The Daily Mail, UK, via this link at UOW). This "wave controller is the brainchild of Australian scientists Dr Prashan Premaratne of UOW’s School of Electrical, Computer and Telecommunications Engineering and Australian National University PhD student, Quang Nguyen."
So how will it work? Their "device is designed to sit on a shelf or table which has a clear line of sight to the television and the owner. Its software recognises simple, deliberate hand gestures and then sends the appropriate signal to a universal remote control, designed to work with most makes of television, video recorder, DVD player, hi-fi and digital set-top box."
In "Last hurrah for the lost remote," Stephen Hutcheon provides more details in The Age. "Dr Premaratne says he is currently in talks with Sony Europe about the process which could also have uses in gaming applications. He hopes to see the technology included in devices such as a set top box incorporating a hard disc drive within the next three years and says it would add less than $50 to the cost of such a unit. 'I'm not really after any money from this invention,' Dr Premaratne says. 'It's more the recognition and the additional funding for some of my other projects that may flow from this.'
This box has been widely covered by the press. You can read for example "Scientists make TV remote redundant with a wave of the hand" (The Guardian, July 20, 2007) or "Wave the TV remote control goodbye and change channel with a thumbs-up | " (The Daily Mail, July 17, 2007).
For more technical information, this research work has been published in The Institution of Engineering and Technology's Computer Vision Journal under the name "Consumer electronics control system based on hand gesture moment invariants" (Volume 1, Issue 1, Pages 35-41, March 2007). Here is the abstract for your convenience. "Almost all consumer electronic equipment today uses remote controls for user interfaces. However, the variety of physical shapes and functional commands that each remote control features also raises numerous problems: the difficulties in locating the required remote control, the confusion with the button layout, the replacement issue and so on. The consumer electronics control system using hand gestures is a new innovative user interface that resolves the complications of using numerous remote controls for domestic appliances. Based on one unified set of hand gestures, this system interprets the user hand gestures into pre-defined commands to control one or many devices simultaneously. The system has been tested and verified under both incandescent and fluorescent lighting conditions. The experimental results are very encouraging as the system produces real-time responses and highly accurate recognition towards various gestures."
Finally, you might think I'm cynical. But when someone is in discussion with Sony while saying he's not interested in money, I'm somewhat skeptical.
Sources: Bernie Goldie, University of Wollongong News, July 17, 2007; and various websites
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