Gesture recognition yields the virtual remote control

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July 23, 2007 As we move towards the home entertainment systems of the future, we’ll no doubt be looking for more elaborate ways of interacting with these systems than the simple remote control. ‘Wave of the hand ‘ technology is a box that lets television viewers change channels, switch on the DVD player or simply switch off an irritating presenter or program with the wave of a hand. The controller’s built-in camera can recognise seven simple hand gestures and work with up to eight different gadgets around the home. The developers, Dr Premaratne and Quang Nguyen, believe the device could be on sale within three years.

The days of scrounging around sofas searching for hand-held remotes will soon be over thanks to a ‘wave of the hand’ technology developed at the University of Wollongong. Dr Premaratne said apart from the frustration of sometimes mislaying the remote control just when you need it, they do tend to have different sets of commands which have to be mastered.

Other people have tried to replace remote controls with voice recognition or glove-based devices but with mixed results.

This 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.

Dr Premaratne said anyone could learn the gestures within five minutes and the software can distinguish between real commands and unintentional gestures. Only one hand is used to tell the device which item you want to switch on or adjust. A clenched fist means ‘start’, an outstretched hand with closed fingers means ‘power on’, a thumbs-up sign means ‘up’ and a sideways victory sign means ‘channel’.

The test results were published in the Institution of Engineering and Technology’s Computer Vision Research Journal.

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