We’ve all been there: you’re watching TV and an atrocious programme that never should have been made pops up on screen. There’s the mild panic to find the remote, which has conveniently disappeared from the universe.
This may become a thing of the past if academics from the University of Lancaster get their way. A team from the institution has developed a system called Matchpoint that turns any object into a TV remote. Using a standard webcam, motion detection, and a custom user interface it’s possible to change the channel of a TV, adjust the music playing on a tablet and more. It’s all a bit reminiscent of Microsoft’s ill-fated Kinect technology.
“We’ve merged the technologies so the user is able to temporarily select a pointer,” says Chris Clarke from the University of Lancaster’s computing and communications department. “You can use any type of body part or any object. Unlike other systems that look for a specific body part or an object, it just looks for any generic motion.”
As well as being able to control a television, Clarke says there’s potential for the system to be used by people who are cooking. If you are following a recipe on YouTube, for instance, and have dirty hands it’s possible to move a wooden spoon in front of a tablet to pause or rewind the footage.
For now, the system remains an academic prototype. It works by displaying moving targets that move around a small circle on the screen. When you want to make a change, you sync your movements to the circle.
It isn’t just academics getting clever with gesture controls. Amazon has also looked to move the technology on by patenting different hand movements to buy certain types of items. Drawing a musical note would start the process of purchasing new music, for example.
A similar system was created by researchers at Lancaster in January 2016, when they used motion capture technology to control a smartwatch using eye movements. The new…