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Waving hand will replace TV remotes

Couch potatoes will soon be waving, pointing, swiping and tapping to control their TVs.

The sets will recognise who is watching and will try to guess what viewers want to see. They will respond to more natural speech and will connect with smartphones in a single touch.

The idea is to make TV watching easier and more pleasant as viewers are confronted with more and more choices - from the hundreds of live TV channels to online videos.

A traditional remote control that lets viewers flip through channels one at a time suddenly seems inadequate.

Samsung president Boo-Keun Yoon said the company was developing "TVs that have the power to create the ultimate lean-back experience".

But don't worry about Big Brother looking back at you. Manufacturers will allow motion-capturing cameras to be pointed away.

Gesture recognition still has a long way to go, and in some demonstrations in Las Vegas, voice commands got lost in translation.

At a crowded Samsung booth, one attendant demonstrated how hand gestures were used to play simple children's games.

Raising her hand brought up an on-screen cursor. Grasping the air was equivalent to clicking on what her digital hand was hovering over.



gestures

However, when she tried the same gestures on a menu of TV-watching options, the TV did not respond well.

Later, in a quiet, enclosed Samsung booth, the TV struggled to comprehend voice commands. The TV was asked: "Find me a movie with Tom Cruise," and correctly pulled up an online trailer of his latest movie, Jack Reacher.

The system was then asked to find dramas. The command "Number 3" was given to choose the third option, but the TV instead started a new search and offered a range of viewing options for Sommersby.

Paul Gagnon, a TV analyst, said the technologies are still in their early days.

"Most interaction I've had with gesture and voice control ... it's not real great right now," he said. "A lot of people in the industry are just trying to explore the possibilities."

Panasonic is also including a track pad and a microphone on its new remote, though it faces similar challenges recognising commands.

A voice command for Breaking Bad on video brought up Google search results on a web browser, as opposed to opportunities to watch the show.

hnews@herald.ie