The Future of the Remote Control: Gesture Recognition

Searching for the remote control may be the most frustrating experience on earth. However, that experience may soon be history. That's because science is perfecting a new way to change channels. This new technology is called gesture recognition. Softkinetic-Optrima and Intel have already closed a deal to install this new technology in set-top boxes.

Gesture recognition technology allows users to control their televisions by using hand motions. This technology has taken a while to catch on, but is now gaining steam. This is thanks in part to Microsoft's announcement of Project Natal, which lets Xbox players kick and punch to play their fighting games. This was acquired through Microsoft's purchase of 3DV, a gesture recognition company in Israel.

Softkinetic-Optrima says that people will soon be able to adjust their televisions' volume by making spinning their hands in a circular motion. Swiping the air changes the station. Making a stop motion pauses the program.

This new technology is set to hit markets in the Middle East, Europe, and Africa around year's end. However, television viewing is not the only place where gesture recognition technology will be used. Softkinetic-Optrima is already working on applying it to various uses for the military, hospitals, and anywhere they think it may be of use.

The gesture recognition technology relies heavily on a 3-D camera that is used to map the actual distance of every pixel it records. Basically, this camera works in a way that is very similar to the way in which a radar gun works. The reason that it is more similar to a radar gun than a stereo camera, which is popular with Google mapmakers, is because the 3-D camera does not need anywhere near as much visual light as stereo cameras need to create three-dimensional images. This is important because the makers expect most people o use these devices while enjoying films in darkened rooms, similar to the way in which films are traditionally enjoyed in theaters. Another thing to consider is that the optical stereo cameras cannot distinguish the difference between a white wall and a white shirt.

SoftKinetic-Optrima uses software that is able to analyze the data from the 3-D camera at an impressive 50 FPS. In 3-D programs, this software can actually put an avatar of the viewer into the scene and even make it possible for him or her to inexact with objects behind things in the foreground.

Many people are afraid of having an infrared camera pointed at them in their homes. They think that it will be used to spy on them and worry about possible health effects. One very real possibility is that advertisers can use the camera to see if the viewer gets off the couch and leaves the room during commercial breaks. At he moment, advertisers say they have no interest in this, but everyone knows that once new technology is adopted, tacit privacy agreements can easily be changed.

The people behind this new technology say that it will come in very handy when internet content streams through the television on a regular basis, as is predicted to be the case in 2015. They also say that the technology will be good for letting customers vote on commercials and programming. However, advertisers feel like that would scare off consumers and are overmuch against rolling that out in the short term. The pricey rules of American cable companies prevents them from sending data upstream without informing the viewer and having him or her opt-in to the process.

It will be interesting to see what happens when this technology becomes the norm. Will people still use handheld remotes? Will they vote on commercials using their hands? Only time will tell.

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