Hands-only remote control emerges in Taiwan

A university team's panel would let users wave to turn appliances on or off

A Taipei university team has developed a tiny chip that allows remote control over home appliances with no more than a wave of the hand and features that make it faster, cheaper and more resistant to interference than rival inventions, the professor in charge said on Tuesday.

Users of the chip developed by the National Taipei University of Technology's graduate automation institute can switch on televisions, home stereos and air conditioners by hand from two meters away, Professor Chen Wen-hui said. They can adjust volumes or change settings the same way, he said.

The graduate institute is applying for a patent to sell what it believes to be a "significantly faster" device-less remote control system that what other research institutions have developed, Chen said. It will also cost less, though Chen said prices had not been set. Signals should be top of the line, he said, given that "what people fear the most is interference."

With the proliferation of remote controlled devices from lights to garage doors, simplification of remote controls has become an increasingly important issue. Overseas, smartphone makers are looking into how their apps can be used to communicate with household electronics, while others are researching all-in-one tools.

Hands-only control is on the front lines, Chen said. "Normally you use an object now for remote control, but we were thinking about something more natural," he said in an interview. "So for anything that you would turn on now with an object, you can now use your hand."

The chips, once perfected for market release, will be sold to appliance makers for pre-installation as well as to consumers who can install them in older machines, Chen said.

A team of seven university teachers spent about a year developing the chip, Chen said.

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