Here Comes the TV 'Mouse'...

13th September 2005

For immediate release

The 'mouse' is about to make a giant leap from computers to Australian television.

A revolutionary technology is being developed by a team of Australian researchers that will change the way people watch and use TV.

Simple hand gestures will replace button-pushing and frustratingly complicated remotes as the era of fully-interactive TV arrives.

A team in the Australasian CRC for Interaction Design (ACID) led by Professor Duane Varan has developed what may be the world's first television 'mouse', a clip-on device that enables the user to give commands to their TV with gestures.

"Once upon a time you had to type commands laboriously into your computer as hard text codes to get it to do anything – then along came the mouse, which greatly simplified and extended what you could do," Prof. Varan explains.

"As television becomes more and more interactive, viewers want to have greater control over what we see and do with it. We want the ability to give it commands in straightforward ways, such as with voice or gestures."

ACID's prototype gesture recognition device clips on the hand. It has accelerometers which measure the movement and orientation of the user's hand in various directions, and a thumb-button to lock in the command.

In time, Prof. Varan predicts, it will replace all those fiddly little remote buttons and arrow keys for record, stop, fast forward, menu and so on, with a series of gestures that are intuitive – like a hand up for stop, or palm-up for fast forward.

"In fact, we think we can go way beyond existing remote controls with a device like this," he adds.

The team is currently fine-tuning the prototype device so it can recognise a wide variation in people's gestures – speed, extent and things like left-handedness.

Unlike a mouse, Prof. Varan believes the gesture recognition device will accommodate natural gestures by the user without risking RSI or strain injury.

Just as the mouse replaced keystrokes with clicks to revolutionise computer interactivity, he believes the gesture recognition device will transform television from the today's passive format into something more tunable to the viewer's needs and wishes.

"TV will contain far more interactive content. If you see something interesting and want more information on it, you'll be able to ask for it as you view. If you want to watch something again, you'll be able to stop the show, go back and review, then keep on watching without missing anything.

"You'll be able to change the narrative stream so that stories end differently, to suit yourself.

"You'll be able to edit out the boring bits and take control over your viewing experience, if you want. You'll be able to tell your TV to accumulate your favourite content and automatically record it so you can watch any time. If you want to fast forward, you'll be able to go right to the end of a program.

"In other words viewers will be able to manipulate their TV experience quite radically, and please themselves far more about what and how they watch."

The key to all this, Prof. Varan says, is having a command device that is simple, robust and versatile – and which anyone can use without having to read a long book of instructions.

The project is part of a larger suite of programs within ACID which are "exploring better ways and technologies for people to interact with and understand how people learn, work and play," explains ACID chief executive officer Professor Jeff Jones.

"We accept that consumers are increasingly discerning and that a technology-centric approach is no longer acceptable for entertainment or business markets which demand intuitive, easy-to-use devices."

The research addresses National Research Priority 3, frontier technologies for transforming industry.

For more information:
Jason Pickersgill, ACID. T: 07 3337 7929 or 0432 163 886. E:

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