Meet the uWand team: exploring the development process

uWand: Developing the technology

For any technology company, the strength of a product lies with the technical ability and creativity of its development team.  Often seen as unsung heroes, engineers spend their days improving, researching and pushing their designs to the limit, to ensure the product works as expected time and time again.

Within the development team there are many roles, contributing to different elements of the product development cycle. Without meticulous attention to detail, from pre-development to testing, the end product could be shipped with faults or provide a poor user experience. You only get one chance to make an impression and failing to do so could have significant knock-on effect for the rest of your business.

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Meet the uWand team: Navin Natoewal, uWand General Manager

Navin is the General Manager at uWand, responsible for overseeing development and bringing the technology to market.

“Television used to be linear. Now you have an internet connection and there’s much more to search for,” explains Navin. “You need a way to navigate that, which uWand tries to address.”

Navin believes the future of Smart TV will require a better user experience, delivered through a more sophisticated control mechanism than the up-down-left-right method we currently use. Not only for navigating between channels, but also for interacting with the user interface and playing Smart TV games.

Here Navin explains how uWand technology provides this.

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The Future of Gaming on Smart TV

TransGaming, Vikas Gupta

Smart TVs are rapidly altering the living room. We are no longer restricted to just live TV as internet-enabled devices now provide access to Over-The-Top and on-demand video services. Thanks to the internet, Smart TVs are rapidly becoming an all-in-one media platform for consumers. The gaming industry has recognised the powerful position this places them in.

The growth of these connected devices and the expansion of cloud services has introduced a wealth of content that was previously inaccessible. Platforms such as Netflix and Spotify have opened the gates to a wide range of streaming content. Dropbox grants you access to your personal media collection from anywhere in the world and cloud gaming services deliver console quality titles direct to your TV. Using a connected device, a stable internet connection is all that’s needed to watch the latest films, stream music or play games, and this represents a growing market for service providers and equipment manufacturers to benefit from.

TransGaming is one company that’s already benefiting from recent developments in the living room through its GameTree TV platform, which is capable of delivering gaming content to any internet-enabled device in the living room. Vikas Gupta, CEO and President at TransGaming believes this to be the future: “There’s no denying that the TV industry is currently undergoing a massive transformation and Smart TVs are proving to be a powerful force when it comes to delivering gaming content to consumers.” Instead of fighting this change, Vikas suggests that the games industry should capitalise upon it. “Many homes already have internet access in their living rooms and people are using web applications to access additional content and video on their Smart TVs. So why not games too?”

Capable of delivering both console quality and casual games without the need for additional hardware, cloud gaming services are already growing in popularity. It should come as no surprise, therefore, that the next generation of games consoles could well be the last. “More consumers are playing games on a range of devices today and offering high-quality video games on set-top boxes is a natural evolution today considering the emergence of technology”. To keep the consumer engaged, and to finalise the transition from dedicated games consoles, service providers need to adopt a standardised approach. Set-top boxes and Smart TVs should essentially become mini-computers, capable of performing a multitude of tasks. “This allows consumers to receive a fully integrated experience without having to switch devices. Furthermore, no device has the kind of market penetration greater than set-top boxes and televisions,” says Vikas.

Yet a standardised hardware approach is only one part of the challenge. Vikas feels that in order to deliver a next generation experience in the living room, through a next-generation set-top box, a new control paradigm will also be necessary. This goes hand-in-hand with the requirement for a new user interface to deliver a better experience for the consumer. “Users don’t want a PC experience on the TV, but they do want a solution that’s capable of performing similar tasks but in a more customized manner. The way in which this is accomplished is by adopting a new control technology that preserves the ‘lean back’ 10 foot environment of the living room.”

A direct pointing solution could resolve this problem, delivering a controller that’s suitable for gaming straight out of the box. As an additional benefit, if manufacturers of connected TVs or set-top boxes chose to deploy a controller that incorporates direct pointing technology, this would also mean that consumers would not need to purchase additional peripherals to play games on their TV. This is particularly advantageous to a casual gaming audience, providing a platform that may, in turn, increase the number of casual gamers and their associated spend within the market. This is something that Vikas hopes to deliver through TransGaming’s partnership with Philips. “By using uWand technology, we hope to create a next-generation input device that will pave the way for a vastly improved user experience.”

The gaming platform as we know it is changing. Following recent hardware developments you no longer need a dedicated games console to enjoy the latest releases. In today’s world, consumers are increasingly turning to the internet to deliver their gaming fix. Cloud gaming providers, such as TransGaming, represent a viable platform for delivering next-generation gaming content. The only requirement now is the need for a new, intuitive control paradigm.

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Smart TV: the picture is getting clearer

uWand - remote control - the key to the Smart TV revolutionSmart TV adoption rates are climbing rapidly. The market is expected to have grown by 15% worldwide this year, with over 125 million shipments expected in 2016. It’s evident that an increasing number of people are buying into this new technology, but few are currently using it to its full potential.

A recent Harris Interactive report and infographic showed that 10% of homes in the UK have a Smart TV. Yet only half of owners have actually connected them to the internet; with many feeling no need to use the online services to supplement live programing.

Despite the present lack of enthusiasm with the key feature of Smart TVs, consumer demand is still moving in favour of internet-based content delivery. This is a direct response to the negative consumer perception of linear TV broadcasting schedules. The explosion of catch-up television has encouraged viewers to shift from exclusively viewing live TV, and Over-The-Top services (Lovefilm, Netflix etc.) now allow users to consume the content they want on a multitude of internet-enabled devices. As a platform capable of supporting all of these services and more, Smart TVs are perfectly situated to capitalise on this market development.

According to Harris, those users who have connected their Smart TVs to the internet are already exploring the technology; engaging with apps, creating their own ‘channels’ and subscribing to Over-The-Top services. They don’t want to be restricted by broadcasting schedules. Smart TVs hold the potential to liberate the viewer from these limitations, and will undoubtedly play an important role in the future of the living room. However, many consumers still turn to their computers, games consoles or second screens to view online content. Although the demand for streaming media is there, consumers are choosing to engage with it through alternative platforms.

The lack of internet use on Smart TVs could be a result of an unduly complex user interface, although it’s more likely to be a consequence of the current control method; the tired up-down-left-right approach to navigation, the limitations of which I have discussed previously on this blog. Alternative technologies, such as voice control, are still not well established, and will take time to achieve widespread acceptance within the market. As the TV has long been the ‘entertainment centre’ for families, it would likely regain its place as the ‘go-to hub’ for media consumption if the service was easier to navigate – a change that has to come from the remote control.

A new technology, namely uWand, could solve this problem by introducing gesture control to the TV platform. Gesture as a control paradigm has already proven to be successful in games consoles (e.g. the Microsoft Kinect), highlighting that the general public are ready to embrace this change. Additionally, this technology holds the potential for a multitude of new features not possible with current controllers, for example Cloud gaming and wider access to media (such as music via Spotify).

This represents a significant opportunity for manufacturers, by capitalising upon this obvious consumer demand for an improved remote control solution. Over-The-Top providers could benefit, too, by enticing a new wave of users to try their services.

Easier to navigate than the traditional up-down-left-right design, gesture represents a next-generation remote control to match next-generation TVs. It’s clear that Smart TVs will form an integral part of the living room experience in coming years and, as I’ve mentioned before, the remote control is a key requirement for this.

The Smart TV revolution is inevitable, but it’s the controller that holds the key to its progress.

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Meet the uWand Team: Jason Wong, Pre-sales project manager

Jason looks after the pre-development for uWand. His role sees him head-up a team of pre sales engineers working to implement uWand’s technology into customer platforms.

“TV manufactures and service providers can no longer offer only linear broadcast content. They need to supplement this with new content and services,” Jason states. “Working with Philips uWand, you get the strength of our partner ecosystem alongside our innovative remote control technology.”

Here Jason talks about the challenges of pre-development integrating technology solutions into customer’s products.

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Meet the uWand team; Sandor Gordijn, customer support and design-in manager

Sandor is responsible for product management at uWand, adapting their technology to the customer’s specification.

“People typically come to us with an idea in mind. We understand their individual needs and deliver the perfect control solution,” explains Sandor. “Some are looking for a standard remote to complete their existing package, but most require specific uWand features that we customize to their requirements.”

His approach is to outline the exact criteria of the customer, working closely with them during the development process. Through this method, he often finds that the finished product meets, if not exceeds, expectations.

Here Sandor delves deeper into his role at uWand and how he delivers a well-planned device to the end user.

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Meet the uWand team; Theo de Rover, system tester

As a tester, Theo makes sure that the uWand technology works to the exacting high standard demanded by Philips technology. Putting it through its paces on a regular basis ensures that uWand technology will work every time.

His approach is to test the system as an end user, but with the inside knowledge of how the system should behave. As Theo puts it, “Testing is not an exact science, sometimes it’s more like an art.”

Here Theo explains how he goes about testing the uWand technology and how he become a system tester.


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Meet the uWand team; Martijn de Jel, hardware engineer

Never far from his microscope and soldering iron, it’s fair to say Martijn enjoys the smaller things in life. As the hardware engineer for Philips uWand, he brings to life the designs of uWand and its customers.

“It’s like micro surgery,” he explains whilst working with some of the smallest components in electrical engineering.

Here Martijn explains his role as a Hardware Engineer and the challenges he faces in realising the hardware designs.

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The remote control – the natural launching point for new control technologies

In my previous post on the importance of the User Interface (UI), I discussed the different methods service providers should be looking at to present content. When exploring the need for a new UI, what we’re really talking about is differentiating services and increasing ARPU by intelligently and seamlessly providing access to content regardless of type, channel or application. In this post I will look at why the remote is the natural launching point for any new UI.

The remote and the GUI are the most immediate points of engagement between a service provider and its customers. They are also one and the same. Without the GUI the remote is limited in its functionality and vice versa. The current generation of remotes has remained largely unchanged for decades. As the saying goes: “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. But with the growth of internet-enabled Smart TVs, along with casual gaming and on-demand services, user interaction is moving beyond the capabilities of basic up, down, left, right navigation. It is clear there’s a requirement for a new control paradigm. This need isn’t going to go away – you either invest in designing, building and implementing a new UI for existing remotes, that will remain complicated or repetitive to navigate between services and content. Or you start with a new remote technology and build your UI around its specifications and functionality.

It’s a change we have seen with mobile devices. The UI used to be a numeric keypad and some form of D-pad or trackerball. Today we now interact directly through touch. This change has improved the mobile experience for billions of subscribers globally and revenue generated from mobile content has skyrocketed over the last five years. Strategy Analytics predicts that mobile app revenues alone will hit $26.1 billion this year, up 30.7% on 2011.

Direct touch is not practical on a TV however. So what other control technology options are available? Recently, we have seen much excitement around “natural” controls designed for simplicity – namely voice and hands-free gesture technology.  However, I would argue that, while elements of these technologies should exist, removing the remote control entirely would make TV UI navigation unnecessarily difficult and far less intuitive.

While Paul O’Donovan, Principal Research Analyst at Gartner, sees connected devices as an opportunity for manufactures, he agrees that the remote control will inevitably remain and be the launching pad for new control technologies. “The remote control is already adopting motion sensors to control functionality on TVs and indeed will also have some embedded form of voice control as well. No TV will ever be shipped to a consumer without some form of remote control to operate the basic controls of the TV when taken ‘out of the box’ and therefore the remote control is a natural launching point for any new UI.”

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Touch Gesture Motion 2012 – what you can expect

Following the success of the inaugural Touch Gesture Motion (TGM) event in Austin, Texas last year, IMS Conferences is launching TGM EMEA in the UK this Wednesday. It aims to drill down into the technologies and applications that are enabling the emerging gesture & motion control industry.

There has been significant interest in touch, gesture and motion controls with the success of touchscreen mobile phones, and motion controllers for games consoles such as the Wiimote, Playstation Move and Xbox Kinect. With the rise of internet-enabled Smart TVs and set-top boxes, there is now a drive within the industry to revolutionise the 50-year old TV remote control.

With the propagation of broadband internet, this generation of TVs are now accessing a growing number of Over-The-Top (OTT) services, providing content directly to the viewer, as opposed to the traditional linear broadcast route. In other words, viewers are now setting their own agendas. But this content isn’t limited to just video. OTT services are also providing access to an increasing array of content including streaming music and gaming. The emphasis is now on providing a control technology that will enable the user to perform a wide range of increasingly complex tasks.

At TGM EMEA, I’ll be building upon my presentation from last year’s event, to discuss input devices for Smart TVs – particularly for interacting with these new forms of content such as gaming. With IHS predicting that spending on Smart TV gaming will hit $1.6 billion by 2016, the opportunity is too huge to miss. But without a new control technology, the risks that service providers will miss out is equally as big.

So the question is ‘What technology to choose?’, and there are a number on offer. At IBC we demonstrated the difference between two technologies – gyro-based relative pointing remotes and camera-based direct pointing solutions. On the surface both technologies may appear to be similar motion gesture devices, Yet, as demonstrated by our Lifeguard game, the differences become apparent when playing casual games.

I will also be revealing data from a new user study on the different control technologies available for playing casual games on a Smart TV.

Be sure to follow us on Twitter (@uWandControl), Facebook and YouTube for our views and opinions surrounding TGM EMEA. As for those of you attending the event, we look forward to seeing you there!

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