New tech lets you turn your cat into a TV remote

If you've ever had to wrestle with your sofa cushions in a quest to find your TV remote, rejoice, it may one day be a long-forgotten hassle. Researchers at the University of Lancaster have developed a system that will let any object in your house become a TV remote – even your sleepy cat.

Using just a simple webcam and the research team's Matchpoint technology, a user only needs to match gesture motions carried out with an object with a rotating icon on screen.

"These targets correspond to different functions – such as volume, changing channel or viewing a menu. The user synchronises the direction of movement of the target with their hand, head, or other object, to achieve what researchers call ‘spontaneous spatial coupling’, which activates the desired function," reads the description on the university's blog.

Accessibility

The team describes using a mug to change a track on a music app, or pushing a toy car to adjust volume. It need not be limited to just TV controls too, with a similar system easily adapted for a tablet.

“Everyday objects in the house can now easily become remote controls so there are no more frantic searches for remote controls when your favourite programme is about to start on another channel, and now everyone in the room has the ‘remote’," said Christopher Clarke, PhD student at Lancaster University’s School of Computing and Communications.

"You could even change the channel with your pet cat.”

While it may seem the perfect excuse for couch potatoes to become even more sedentary, there seems obvious application for those with mobility issues – you could use the gestures to control AV equipment and other devices without needing to move around a room, or reach for separate specific controller.

It may be some time (if ever) before the Matchpoint tech makes its way to a consumer product, but the research team will be showing off their findings at the the UIST2017 conference in Quebec City this month.