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TV remotes morph into motion sensors

Posted: 09 Sep 2010 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:remote control? motion sensing? DTVs? STBs?

What is needed to design a remote control for next-generation DTVs and STBs? Assuming that future TVs and STBs will run web-based services and Google-like search functions, this is a question must be thought through by every system designer.

Surely no one wants to subject consumersarmed only with a traditional "clicker" that only moved up, down, left and rightto the difficulty of navigating through a multimedia quagmire that includes the Web-based apps running on TV.

The company Movea believes that the answer to the question is motion sensing and motion control.

Movea, a CEA-Leti spin-off, is introducing a new platform called MotionIC, that lets OEMs and service providers easily integrate two to nine axes of motion processing and control in their new products. The platform consists of chips, firmware, software APIs and development kits, allowing OEMs to use any sensor configuration, such as a magnetometer for orientation, an accelerometer for force and acceleration, and a gyroscope for rotation.

Movea joins other companies offering system vendors hardware, software and IP essential to motion-sensing solutions, such as Hillcrest Labs and InvenSense.

The idea of combining an accelerometer and optical sensor technology in a remote control unit is not new. Nintendo's Wii Remote, dubbed the Wiimote, uses motion-sensing capabilities and popularized this man-machine interface. Accelerometers are widely integrated inside mobile phones and digital cameras, allowing the device to know when it is tilted on its side. Apple's iPhone, in particular, has opened the opportunity for many developers to devise inventive applications that take advantage of the handset's orientation-sensing features.

Wii rival coming
Adding fuel to the growing motion-sensing trend is Sony's new PlayStation Move, scheduled for launch at the end of this month.

Sony's new game console comes with Sony's PlayStation Eye camera, and a Bluetooth-enabled wand that looks like the Nintendo Wiimote. Fancier than Wiimote, Move's controller is equipped with a glowing tip that serves as a visual marker for the Eye camera. The lit beacons send one's hand location to the game console via Bluetooth and through camera. Microsoft is also planning to launch Kinect, a similar motion-sensing controller with camera, later this year.

Movea, convinced that motion sensing and motion control is the new battleground for next-generation consumer devices, is betting big on the premise.

Clearly, they see that today's button-intensive remote controls will prove ungainly and frustrating in a more search and Web-intensive TV. One answer is to offer consumers simple hand movements and gestures to navigate media content.

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