By DAVID DERBYSHIRE--The Daily Mail
It sounds like the perfect invention for all those couch potatoes who find even using a remote control just a little too much like hard work.
Scientists have come up with a box that lets television viewers change channels, switch on the DVD player or switch off an irritating presenter with the wave of a hand.
The controller's built-in camera can recognise seven simple hand gestures and work with up to eight different gadgets around the home.
Not only will it be a godsend for lazy viewers, it could also save hours of fruitless scrabbling among the sofa in search of the remote control.
The all-seeing wave controller is the brainchild of Australian engineers Dr Prashan Premaratne and Quang Nguyen.
They believe it could be on sale within three years, ending the frustration involved in finding and using remote controls.
Dr Premaratne, of the University of Wollongong, said: "We all rely on remote controls to manage an increasing number of items including TVs, set-top boxes, DVDs and hi-fis, and the range of goods will continue to increase.
"Apart from the frustration of sometimes mislaying the remote control just when you need it, they do tend to have different sets of commands which have to be mastered.
"People have tried to replace remote controls with voice recognition or glove-based devices but with mixed results."
The device is designed to sit on a shelf or table which has a clear line of sight to the television and the owner.
Its software recognises simple, deliberate hand gestures and then sends the appropriate signal to a universal remote control, designed to work with most makes of television, video recorder, DVD player, hi-fi and digital set-top box.
In tests, published in the Institution of Engineering and Technology's Computer Vision Research Journal, a prototype worked in all kinds of lighting, and at a range of distances.
It was able to switch equipment on and off, alter the volume, change channels, play and stop. Dr Premaratne says anyone can learn the gestures within five minutes.
One is used to tell the device which item you want to switch on or adjust.
A clenched fist means "start", an outstretched hand with closed fingers means "power on", a thumbs-up sign means "up" and a sideways victory sign means "channel".
Crucially for anyone with small children, pets or gesticulating family members, the software can distinguish between real commands and unintentional gestures. The team has started work on making the gadget small enough to be built in to televisions or other devices.
They also want to adapt it for use with computer games consoles. Dr Premaratne said: "Normal game consoles rely on pressing series of buttons to get commands.
"Hand gestures can replace those button presses and the gaming experience will be truly revolutionized."