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Bernie Goldie

It’s thumbs up to new way of changing TV channels

The days of scrounging around sofas searching for hand-held remotes will soon be over thanks to a ‘wave of the hand’ technology developed at the University of Wollongong.

The all-seeing wave controller is the brainchild of Australian scientists Dr Prashan Premaratne of UOW’s School of Electrical, Computer and Telecommunications Engineering and Australian National University PhD student, Quang Nguyen. Quang was earlier an undergraduate student working with Dr Premaratne at UOW.

Story of the technological research broke overseas this week while Dr Premaratne was on study leave. He has just returned to Wollongong.

His test results were published in the Institution of Engineering and Technology’s Computer Vision Research Journal and then initially carried in the UK’s Daily Mail.

Dr Premaratne and Quang Nguyen have developed a box that lets television viewers change channels, switch on the DVD player or simply switch off an irritating presenter or program with the wave of a hand.

The controller’s built-in camera can recognise seven simple hand gestures and work with up to eight different gadgets around the home.

Dr Premaratne said he believed the device could be on sale within three years.

He said apart from the frustration of sometimes mislaying the remote control just when you need it, they do tend to have different sets of commands which have to be mastered.

Dr Premaratne said people have tried to replace remote controls with voice recognition or glove-based devices but with mixed results.

His device is designed to sit on a shelf or table which has a clear line of sight to the television and the owner. Its software recognises simple, deliberate hand gestures and then sends the appropriate signal to a universal remote control, designed to work with most makes of television, video recorder, DVD player, hi-fi and digital set-top box.

The device was able to switch equipment on and off, alter the volume, change channels, play and stop, Dr Premaratne said.

He said anyone could learn the gestures within five minutes.

One is used to tell the device which item you want to switch on or adjust. A clenched fist means ‘start’, an outstretched hand with closed fingers means ‘power on’, a thumbs-up sign means ‘up’ and a sideways victory sign means ‘channel’.

Dr Premaratne said that crucially for anyone with small children, pets or gesticulating family members, the software can distinguish between real commands and unintentional gestures.

For further information contact Dr Prashan Premaratne on (02) 4221 4778 or 0423 167974 (m).