Faced with Smart TV user interfaces that rendered traditional ‘52-button’ remote controls insufficient, Hillcrest embarked on a project to identify the best control mechanism for the new UIs. The solution had to be able to access any place on the screen quickly and easily. It had to be flexible to match applications from web browsing to gaming. It had to be easy for anyone to use. It had to be a ‘lean back’ experience, matching user’s needs to work however they watch TV. Simply, it had to improve the user experience.
We experimented with a variety of systems, from 2D cameras to 3D cameras to trackpads, and the best solution was inertial motion control – using a MEMS accelerometer and gyroscope to translate movements of the remote control to onscreen cursor movement. Honestly, it wasn’t even close.
Small, natural movements were all it took to send a cursor zooming around the screen. We could control a cursor one minute, a game the next and perform an in-air gesture the next. Most importantly, we could do all of this while relaxing on the couch in any slighting condition and at any distance from the TV. Everyone who tested it had the ‘wow’ moment that only happens when need, technology and solution come together in a perfect fit.
Perfecting motion control posed challenges, however. It was necessary to address problems created by natural human hand tremor, inadvertent movement while pressing a button, cursor drift caused by changing temperature affecting the gyroscope reading, and the fact that everyone held the remote slightly differently.
To overcome these challenges we developed the features which make inertial motion control systems more intuitive, natural and practical, and which are the hallmarks of Freespace motion control to this day.
Next: Birth of Freespace