New gesture, voice technology may make remote controls obsolete
The remote control has never been much beloved.
If it’s not getting lost or running out of batteries, the device — and its inscrutable buttons — is confusing some family member or acting as a totem in an argument about what to watch.
Wouldn’t it be nice to wave your hand, say a magic word and make the clicker disappear for good?
With a new generation of gesture- and voice-controlled televisions, that’s exactly what may happen.
Viewers can control a new line of TV sets simply by speaking or gesturing at them, eliminating the need for clunky pointing devices and opening up a range of new ways people can use and interact with their televisions.
At a giant booth built by Samsung Electronics for the Consumer Electronics Show last week in Las Vegas, a young woman gave a demonstration of the company’s new line of Smart TV sets, which come with a built-in Web browser as well as online applications such as Netflix, Skype and Facebook.
“Hi TV,” she said, issuing the verbal command for the TV to turn on. “Channel 1034.” The TV switched to a news channel. “Web browser,” she continued, and the Yahoo home page popped up.
Next, the attendant waved her palm at the small camera built into the top of the television, activating its gesture sensor. By moving her hand, she was able to guide a cursor around the on-screen Web page, and to “click” on links and photos by closing her fist.
Tech observers say gesture and voice recognition systems will grow more sophisticated as the computers embedded in smartphones, TVs, tablets and home appliances become more powerful. That will make obsolete the era of mice and remote controls, which began in 1950 with Zenith’s “Lazy Bones,” a remote connected to the TV through a long wire.
With the newer controls, “you can simply use what God or nature gave you: your hands or your body or your voice — and that’s all you need,” said Charles Golvin, an analyst at Forrester Research.