CES 2011: Philips uWand technology

by: Ben Berry -
It's nearly impossible to keep up with the flood of pre-CES emails, so I was thankful to Chuck for forwarding the announcement of Philips that they would be displaying their uWand technology. Each show I try to find the emerging technologies Marc Nieuwhof, Phillips Manager of Communications for Intellectual Property and Standards, was kind enough to spend several minutes showing me what they've developed as the basis of the uWand platform. 

uWand isn't a product, it's a technology platform that Philips has created to license to other manufacturers. Think of the way the Wii Remote works, with an RF transmitter and a camera in the remote and a sensor with a pair of infrared LED's either integrated into the TV or attached via a separate sensor attachment. Because they have refined their software in a way that Nintendo hasn't, even from just the few minutes I spent with one of the remotes based on their technology, I could tell it was far more accurate. 

What was really funny about sitting through the demo with Marc was when he put the remote in my hand and I started using it. Immediately, I accidentally thought out loud "How did no one think of this sooner?" It just felt so natural, and the gestures are designed in such a way that they really do allow you to avoid sitting forward on the couch to use your remote the way you want. In fact, because it's multi-dimensional controlling, you can do infinite levels of menus, and select among them just by pulling and pushing the remote.

The thing I found most interesting was how it allows you to avoid the painful process of going through all of the menu options to order a movie on PPV or through a system like Netflix or VUDU by simply pointing on the option you want without a ton of work to do it. Plus, they're adding simple games like Tic-Tac-Toe, that really allow you to take advantage of the simple 

Currently, there are no products available in the US based on the technology, but Mr. Nieuwhof was cagey when I asked when a US product would be released. It lead me to believe something was fairly imminent. I hope so, because I'd love to get one of these products.

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