The LG television remote control that uses the Hillcrest motion sensing technology
Hillcrest, a maker of a Nintendo Wii-like remote control for navigating Internet content on televisions, has revealed that it designed the technology behind a motion-sensing remote control for new high-end televisions made by LG Electronics, the Korean consumer electronics maker.
Hillcrest also says it has licensed its patents on motion control technology to Sony’s videogame division. Sony and Hillcrest spokesmen wouldn’t talk about the terms of the deal, but it’s likely to be relevant to PlayStation Move, an upcoming motion-sensing game controller for Sony’s PlayStation 3.
While it’s unclear how much Hillcrest is profiting from the deals, they’re a sign that some of the big electronics makers are taking the startup’s expertise and intellectual property in motion control technology seriously. They also show how a technology that has been used to swing virtual tennis rackets and other in-game objects is now emerging as a way to navigate other forms of content on television sets. The array of Internet video, photos and applications on Web-enabled televisions are becoming tougher to navigate with traditional button-centric remote controls.
“As more and more services become available on the big screen, there is a real challenge as to how to make navigating them as easy a process as possible,” says David Mercer, an analyst at Strategy Analytics. “There’s a recognition that the traditional remote control for televisions has to change.”
Two years ago, Hillcrest sued Nintendo Co. for allegedly infringing its motion control patents with the Wii, a game console that was the first to show the mass market appeal of a motion-sensing controller for games. Nintendo and Hillcrest settled their legal disputes last August. Although the terms of the settlement weren’t disclosed, legal documents filed with the US International Trade Commission by the companies suggest Nintendo received a license to Hillcrest patents as part of the deal.
Spokespeople for Nintendo and Hillcrest declined to comment.
The motion-sensing remote control for LG’s sets, dubbed the Magic Wand, works on the same principle as Nintendo’s Wii. As viewers move the device around in space, a cursor on the screen of the television sets tracks its movements, allowing a user to quickly zip across a screen full of icons. The motion remote control is available with LG’s Infinia LX 9500 LED televisions, which range between $3,000 and $5,000, depending on screen size.
Dan Simpkins, Hillcrest’s CEO, believe television sets are on the verge of a leap that PCs made years ago when they started coming with mice and graphical user interfaces, rather than just keyboards. Simpkins says he’s talking to many other consumer electronics companies about incorporating motion control into their devices, but he concedes it has been more difficult to get cable and satellite companies to embrace the concept in their set-top boxes, through which most consumers get traditional television channels.
Cable and satellite companies, though, are going to face more pressure to make the user interfaces for their services better suited to interactive content coming from the Internet. TiVo this week introduced a remote control with a slide-out keyboard that makes it easier to enter search terms and other text on their digital video recorders. And Microsoft has a product out in November for the Xbox 360, called Kinect, that will let players control games and online content with body movements and voice commands.
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