The Loop: Motion Controlled Remote Hands-On

This image was lost some time after publication, but you can still view it here.
This image was lost some time after publication, but you can still view it here.

The Loop motion-controlled remote may have seemed like a gimmick at first, but after playing with it firsthand, we have to say that it seems like the remote of the future. Let us explain. Hillcrest Labs' technology allows you to flick your wrist up, down, left or right in order to move the cursor around on the screen—it's basically a mouse control in mid-air.

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Instead of scrolling through your onscreen guides with the up/down/left/right buttons like you do now on your TiVo/Media Center, you can use the scrollwheel on the Loop like you would a PC. This means you get to your destination faster and more accurately. Just like a mouse for navigation is better than just using a keyboard, this is better than using a standard button-based remote.

But the remote is only half the story.

This image was lost some time after publication, but you can still view it here.
This image was lost some time after publication, but you can still view it here.

Hillcrest Labs is also focusing on its own in-house DVR software. Designed to work on set-top boxes like your cable receiver, thin-client PCs, or even regular home theater PCs, the DVR software looked actually pretty nice, and has similar functionality to Windows Media Center that we've been using for a couple years now. It's way beyond the usability that the lousy $9 Comcast HDTV DVR rental we're currently "using".

There's a web browser, photo viewer, music playback, video playback, and even On Demand support, along with the standard DVR features of playing back live TV and recorded TV. Hillcrest told us that they've secured deals with some major manufacturers/service providers, and they should be rolling out this software on machines sometime in 2007. Presumably with The Loop remote as part of the bundle.

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When asked, Hillcrest told us that the motion-sensing technology could be adapted to standard-looking remotes with your regular amount of buttons on it, but that's up to market demand and what the service providers like Time Warner or Comcast want to do with their box.

This image was lost some time after publication, but you can still view it here.
This image was lost some time after publication, but you can still view it here.
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All in all, a pretty promising idea which boils down to letting you mouse around a DVR interface using a remote instead of a mouse. And if they can get Comcast to replace the craptastic Motorola DVR? They'd get a hug and a kiss from every subscriber in the nation.

DISCUSSION

douch3er-old
Douch3er

"Just like a mouse for navigation is better than just using a keyboard" - Jason Chen

That is the silliest thing I've heard all day. Keyboards are much more precise than mice.

In 1996 or so I bought a Sony receiver that was essentially the same idea as this minus the scroll wheel (and shaped like an egg) and it was the most obnoxious interface ever. Sure it seemed clever and novel at first, but the first time you change sources and the volume blasts as you frantically try to maneuver the cursor over the "volume down" button while your ears are bleeding, you realize as you dash across the room to twist the the volume knob down, that its not such a great idea after all.