PORTLAND, Ore.–Hillcrest Labs Inc. announced Tuesday (Aug. 28) it downsized its motion processing algorithms to run on an 8-bit microcontroller inside a television remote control.
Known as Freespace MotionEngine Lite, the software allows nearly any TV manufacture to convert existing "dumb" models into Smart TVs merely by choosing the right remote.
All Smart TVs today run their motion processing algorithms on the 32-bit application processor inside the television, relegating the remote control to merely sending the raw sensor data from the MEMS accelerometer and gyroscope inside it.
"Any television manufacturer who controls an on-screen cursor with buttons today can now upgrade that model to a smart TV by running our motion processing algorithms on their remote control," said Chad Lucien, senior vice president at Hillcrest (Rockville, Md.).
Texas Instruments has signed on, announcing simultaneously that its ZigBee RF4CE (radio frequency for consumer electronics) and Bluetooth system-on-chips (SoCs)—CC2533 and CC2541, respectively—can now run Hillcrest's Freespace MotionEngine Lite. Also remote control makers SMK Electronics and Universal Electronics have signed up and are currently offering smart remotes running Freespace MotionEngine Lite to television manufacturers, with end-user products due by Christmas.
Hillcrest Labs has managed to downsize its Freespace MotionEngine algorithms to run entirely on the 8-bit microcontrollers the Smart TV remote control.
Besides an 8-bit microcontroller and RF transceiver, the remote control needs to house both a MEMS accelerometer and gyroscope. Freespace MotionEngine Lite loads into the remote control's flash memory and performs all necessary analytics to derive x-y cursor locations from the raw MEMS data, which it transmits to the television over its wireless link. No user calibration is necessary, and all inadvertant motion glitches—such as hand tremors, or jerks when pressing buttons—being automatically smoothed out by Freespace MotionEngine Lite.
As a result, users can use the smart remote to point at menu items on-screen for point-and-click web browsing, gaming and menu selection on par with more expensive smart TVs that run their motion processing on the television's 32-bit application processor. Smart TV manufacturers can also integrate their MotionEngine powered remotes with Hillcrest's Gesture Recognition Engine, which runs on the application processor to enable 50 pre-defined gestures.
TV manufacturers can also upgrade to the full version the Freespace MotionEngine for Smart TVs at any time. Freespace MotionEngine Lite can also be used with set-top boxes and PCs to enable remote control operations. Licensees of Hillcrest's Freespace algorithms include Eastman Kodak, LG Electronics, Logitech, Roku, SMK Electronics, Sony Computer Entertainment Inc., TCL Multimedia, and Universal Electronics (UEI).
Just as every cell phone is becoming smarter, TV manufacturers too are aspiring to make all they models smart. Smart TVs don't all have the same capabilities, but one element that is becoming essential is the ability to aim the remote at menu items in a point-and-click user interface. Usually that means burdening the application processor in the TV with interpreting the MEMS sensor data from an accelerometer or gyroscope, but by putting those smarts inside the remote itself, TV manufacturers should be able to upgrade more of their low-end models to Smart TV status.
Define "smart TV." All it takes to qualify is that an on-screen cursor is used to navigate menus? But I have many dumb components that use this type of user interface. Even my first DVD player. You couldn't just aim the remote, but you definitely moved the on-screen cursor with the arrow buttons.
I think a "smart TV" needs to be connected to the Internet and it should also *not* be constrained to just a couple of web sites. I don't see how a remote alone can do that.
Because I couldn't find anything on the market that qualified as "smart TV" in my book, I ended up dedicating a PC to the job. Connected to the TV via RGB and stereo audio (or I could have bought an HDMI adapter card for the PC, for both audio and video interface), and using a wireless remote keyboard and mouse, now I got what I'd consider a "smart TV." Using the same criterion as one would for, say, a "smart phone."
I'm not saying the smarter remote isn't cool, however I am saying that IMO it takes more than a remote to make a smart TV.
I love technology as much as the next engineer but I must admit that I had a fondness for my old TV that never crashed or locked up. Just about every other device in the house has a repair diagnostic sequence that starts with "shutdown and reboot". Our TV that just works is being replaced with more features ... including crashing from time to time. Our new TV started life with a HDMI problem upon installation that required a new motherboard be installed. I'd rather have the smart technology in the TiVo and leave the TV as a passive display device. Not all technology is progress.
Bert22306 made a very good point. Smart TV isn't just defined by man-machine interface. It is defined by the convergence of Internet and TV. I always say a Smart TV is a Connected TV simply because it doesn't think and it doesn't choose channel for you. You, holding on the remote control, still have ultimate choice. Nonetheless, who knows when a real smart TV will come. It might be next year given the pace of technology advancement.
What are the important features that you will call a TV smart?
Well, it seems as though Samsung is using the term the most. Whilst I don't have a TV of theirs, I do have a BR player. They have internet, apps for all the video services (like neflix and hulu), apps for games, the ability to stream in audio, video, and pics from a different pc (Windows media player), games (apps), and of course wireless. Youtube and facebook, of course. Basically it's a poor mans computer. So for $89 at fry's, you get a wireless blue ray player than can do a bunch of junk. And you can use their remote or download an Android app. This effectively turns my dumb and old vizio plasma monitor into a smart TV. A computer would essentially do the same thing, but for more money...
I'd say that's pretty smart.
Even this is a half measure. Sure, the remote is now a simplified WiiMote, but how does that help deal with the fact that I've got 5 of the damn things on my side table.
To make devices smart we need a standard protocol for devices to expose their interfaces and functions to other smart devices, including each other. As for protocol, I'd hope that Bluetooth (already available in all smart phones and tablets) would be the communication channel of choice.
I want to be able to have my smart device talk to my TV and turn into a remote. Then have the TV talk to my BluRay player, game system, and speaker amp, so when I send change input (or change activity) commands the whole system responds: TV changes input, devices turn on or off, volumes auto-adjust and sound profiles change, and the remote interfaces (buttons, sliders, menus, etc) change to represent the new activity.
Oh, and make the whole thing open please. I'd call it the Bluetooth Open Remote Blueprint or BlueORB(tm).