New Gesture Control Technology Turns Any Object Into A Remote Control

Developed by researchers at Lancaster University, this tech uses “spontaneous spatial coupling,” to turn even the household cat into a pointer.
Danielle  De La Bastide

A new study revealed a new technique that allows the body to become the ultimate remote control. Researchers developed a way to connect body movements such as moving a cup of tea, rolling a toy car or rotating a spatula to control actions on your TV screen.

This gesture control technology turns everyday objects into remote controls and was developed by researchers from Lancaster University in the UK. The paper detailing the invention, titled ‘Matchpoint: Spontaneous spatial coupling of body movement for touchless pointing’ is due to be presented at UIST2017, a tech conference taking place in Quebec City later this month.

Matchpoint only requires a small webcam to be useful; it works by displaying moving targets that orbit a small circular widget in the corner of the screen. The marks match with different functions on the television, such as volume, changing channels or viewing the main menu. The user then synchronizes the direction of movement of the target with their hand, head or an object, to achieve “spontaneous spatial coupling,” something the researchers say activates the desired function.

"Spontaneous spatial coupling is a new approach to gesture control that works by matching movement instead of asking the computer to recognize a specific object," said Christopher Clarke, a Ph.D. student at Lancaster University’s School of Computing and Communications, and developer of the technology.

New Gesture Control Technology Turns Any Object Into A Remote Control
Source: Search Inside/YouTube

Better yet, Matchpoint doesn’t look for a specific body part to identify; rather it looks for a rotating movement. Therefore it doesn’t require the software to have a prior knowledge of objects. This could also provide beneficial assistance to the disabled and elderly who can’t handle a pointer or remotes. Users also don’t need specific commands to activate different functions.

Instead, when changing the volume or the channel, a slider will appear on the screen. The viewer can move their hand, head or chosen object in the direction they want which is then mimicked by the slider.

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Stationary objects can also be linked to controls, even when left for prolonged periods of time.

New Gesture Control Technology Turns Any Object Into A Remote Control
Source: Search Inside/YouTube

"Our method allows for a much more user-friendly experience where you can change channels without having to put down your drink, or change your position, whether that is relaxing on the sofa or standing in the kitchen following a recipe. Everyday objects in the house can now easily become remote controls, so there are no more frantic searches for remote controls when your favorite program is about to start on another channel, and now everyone in the room has the ‘remote.' You could even change the channel with your pet cat," continued Clarke.

This technology could also be implemented for other screens, such as YouTube tutorials could be easily paused and rewound on tablets without the need to put down tools or kitchen appliances.

Matchpoint is still in its early stages so no word as yet regarding when it will be available commercially.

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