Motion-Sensing capabilities moving to Consumer Electronics
By Mike Hanlon
November 8, 2006
November 9, 2006 The pictured object is a TV remote control, designed to be much easier to use than that array of buttons you currently use that make a piano accordion look simple. The Loop is Hillcrest's first Freespace-enabled product, a bracelet-shaped TV remote control with just two buttons and a scroll wheel. Users hold The Loop in one hand, and it translates their motions into on-screen cursor movements. Using the scroll wheel and the two buttons, users can browse through TV channels or change the volume. Motion-sensing has been in use in computer games for some time, offering a more immersive, intuitive experience - consumer electronics will be next - for sure!
Hillcrest is now licensing its patented Freespace motion control technology for use across a wide range of consumer electronics products, expanding its application beyond television remote controls. The company has also formed a new business unit, the Freespace Systems Division, which will be led by Dr. Chris Roller as General Manager and Senior Vice President. The mission of the Freespace Systems Division is to serve the growing market for embedded motion-sensing applications and devices.
With Freespace motion control technology embedded in handheld devices, consumers can operate CE equipment and use natural movements to navigate and select content on-screen with point-and-click interactivity.
Hillcrest Labs will now offer Freespace motion control technology to companies that produce PC peripherals, home entertainment consoles, game controllers, TV remote controls, and other CE devices. The company has already signed deals with major CE manufacturers that intend to announce commercially available Freespace-enabled products early next year.
"While Hillcrest Labs offers a complete, pointer-based interactive media system for television, we recognize that components of our system, such as Freespace, have valuable commercial viability on their own," said Dan Simpkins, CEO of Hillcrest Labs. "By making Freespace motion control technology available independently, we're able to serve a wider audience of customers and partners, enabling them to deliver uniquely interactive experiences with a wide range of CE devices."
"The video game industry has been the first to widely utilize motion-sensing technology in home entertainment devices, such as Nintendo's highly-anticipated Wii controller," said Danny Briere, senior analyst and CEO of TeleChoice. "Recently, we've seen companies from Nike to Nokia take steps in this direction too. In today's interconnected world, consumers seek out interactive and immersive experiences, and Freespace pointing could be a significant differentiator for companies looking to bring this capability to their product lines -- from PC peripherals to devices offered by broadband service providers."
Freespace utilizes patented digital signal processing that uses gravity and other inertial forces to detect its position in the air. The software translates motion instantaneously, and automatically adjusts for natural hand tremors. Unlike older technologies that are based merely on gyroscopes, Freespace pointing devices work regardless of directional orientation. Since users do not need to aim the device towards a screen, they are free to hold the device in whatever position feels most comfortable to them. As part of Hillcrest's complete product portfolio, Freespace won a 2006 International CES Innovations Design and Engineering Award, presented by the Consumer Electronics Association.
In addition to Hillcrest Labs' portfolio of patents, the company has also acquired a broad set of intellectual property rights related to interactive, motion-sensing capabilities for CE devices. Hillcrest's complete interactive media system includes Freespace motion control technology and HoME, a new "zoomable" graphical user interface (GUI) for televisions, and a robust back- end metadata and content-recommendation platform.