Few people watch television alone today, even when they're by themselves. Most are gravitating toward the multi-screen experience, in which viewers keep a smartphone, tablet or laptop close by so they can access the Web while they watch TV. But as televisions become smarter and gesture-based computing evolves, viewers may be able to mount and control everything they need on the living room wall.
Shafa Wala is the co-founder of Tarsier Inc., whose gesture-based technology MoveEye attracted its share of attention at last month's DEMO conference in Santa Clara, Calif. MoveEye enables users to navigate a smart television with hand gestures, basically pointing to and interacting with different points on the television. In a video showing how MoveEye works, a demonstrator wearing connected eyewear carries out common tablet tasks like accessing e-books and playing Angry Birds, then moves on to more intensive functions like playing driving video games and Diablo III.
Though impressive, the concept is hardly new. Microsoft Kinect and Nintendo Wii have made gesture-based interaction famous over the past few years, while the highly anticipated Leap from Leap Motion touts easy touch-less interaction with the PC. Wala admits that these tools are "quite viable," but says Tarsier is specifically targeting the market for smart TV navigation.
"Our opinion is that there was nothing that was expressive enough to navigate a content-rich screen and to navigate media when we do have a content-rich screen," Wala says. "We didn't really have in our minds that we wanted to replace the remote control or replace the keyboard and mouse, but mainly how do we define an expressive way to interact with your TV in the same type of efficient way that you interact with your computer or touchscreen?"
Nevertheless, for more intuitive navigation to become popular, the technology will have to work well enough to convince users to migrate away from traditional input devices. Wala notes that the television remote is already being replaced by tablet apps, such as Comcast's Xfinity TV app for iOS, which offers more efficient remote navigation than traditional options. Similarly, speech recognition technology will need to evolve to the point that "you can just basically eliminate the need for handheld and tabletop input devices altogether," Wala says.
Stephen Prentice, vice president and Gartner fellow, agrees that user navigation will need to evolve as the content available on the television grows. Prentice has followed the gesture-based computing field for years, and in 2008 he famously predicted that the computer mouse had just five years before it became largely obsolete. Although he admits today that the mouse will remain applicable in certain use cases, he cites the continued decline of Logitech when he says he "got it right."
Sign up for CIO Asia eNewsletters.