Image courtesy of Digital Versus. digitalversus.com
Could arguments over who commands the remote control soon be a thing of the past? They will be if the product design team at Hitachi have their way. They have developed a TV which recognizes human physical gestures to navigate the TV’s functions - potentially rendering the annoyingly illusive, grubby, battery gobbling remote control redundant! It works by employing cameras inside the product which interpret simple motions, turning them into function commands.
Our 1HQ team first spotted this product at the CES in Vegas in 2008 and are still in debate as to whether it’s a truly beneficial technological advancement. Voice recognition software, for example, is still struggling to find a significant role in our homes.
At this stage, the system is basic. The viewer needs to be squarely placed in front of the TV and executing precise gestures for the system to recognise and register these movements. For this technology to be truly successful and marketable for the main stream, it needs to be more inclusive e.g. consider use by those with limited fields of movement, like arthritis for example.
While this is a radical step from the classic remote control we’re still scratching our heads (yoiks, have I just changed the channel?!).
Re-educating a consumer with a new gestural language may take time. There may also be social and cultural implications to the use of signs and symbols, (the gesture for 'Okay' as we know it in Europe means something very different in South American countries.) The foundations are there, but perhaps there needs to be a few more ‘physical’ incremental changes before we ditch our remotes and adopt it as a standalone interface.
A word from Dr. Kishore Budha; Senior Semiotican at 1HQ
“We have adapted a whole set of cultural codes surrounding the RCD (Remote Control Device) -- the man of the house holds the remote control (embodying gender power relations), we talk pejoratively about couch potatoes (reflecting a didactic class-based critique of anyone who does not conform to societal notions of being productive).
Technology does not work in revolutionary/transformatory steps. Instead, technology sells best when it exploits dominant and recessive codes and proposes a new cultural idea. For e.g., the iPod proposed mobile device that allowed re-contextualisation of music, a post-modern idea that was already underway through the use of playlists on computer.So if we take away the physical remote control, how will we re-present the existing social codes that are widely used by existing devices?
So, from a design perspective it needs to look beyond the novelty and engage in “semiotically” informed design to create something that will be immediately adapted by consumers”.
Thanks to Lee T and Dr. Kishore for content of this post.
To see a demonstration video go here: