CRISTAL is a research project that moves the universal remote to a Microsoft Surface-type table with incredibly intuitive gestures. Want to watch a movie? Drag the cover to your TV. It even lets you trace a path for your Roomba.
The awkwardly-acronymed CRISTAL, which stands for ""Control of Remotely Interfaced Systems using Touch-based Actions in Living spaces," uses a camera to take an overhead shot of your living room setup, and you designate the compatible parts: TV, speakers, digital photo frame, HTPC, Roomba. Then you simply touch, swipe, drag and drop to control the room. Your digital media collection shows up as almost a Cover Flow-type design, and can be dragged either to the speakers or TV, or just examined more closely on the Surface-type screen itself. I love that you can watch a preview right there on the table, or quickly toss it to the TV to output it.
The system, right now, would cost a prohibitive $10,000-15,000, but the team says costs could definitely be lowered. Presumably they're not using an actual Surface, which costs about that much by itself. Still, it looks awfully responsive and just a blast to play with, so we hope they can figure out a way to get those costs down enough that, say, I can get one. [Wired]