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Dawn of the universal remote control

7 September 2012

BBC R&D is working on a universal remote control app that can be downloaded into smart phones and other web-enabled devices to control multiple home entertainment systems. During Thursday’s Social Media Meets TV session, BBC Stephen Jolly, senior R&D engineer BBC ran through the designs in the BBC white paper, the Universal Control API. Jolly explained that the open standard API would allow any network-enabled device to be controlled from client software on the home network. Written in HTML and designed to run on web browsers, the application can be downloaded onto a smart phone, which would effectively act as the user interface. The app is capable of speaking to TVs, set-top boxes, radios, Blu-ray players and any kind of device that selects and presents media to the user, meaning a single remote control interface could control many different devices in the home. Jolly added that transferring the whole UI to a smartphone provides greater accessibility to viewers with visual and cognitive impairments who would be able to use voice and gesture recognition in place of an EPG menu. Because the API uses the same network architecture to exchange information with the set top box, it is also able to synchronise the audio with the live TV show allowing users to receive audience description through their smart phone. For more general usage the same app can be used for director’s commentary that compliments films and TV dramas. Apple, Google, Samsung and Xbox have all developed proprietary applications for mobile devices that act as a remote control interface. Ruwido, the Austrian remote control specialist, has also designed a series of products to control multiple devices in the living room, which send out all kinds of infrared codes. Research carried out by the company suggests replacing the remote with a mobile phone application that is able to update and personalise viewer commands. The results of an ethnographical study carried out by Ruwido showed that the best approach would be for the app to combine controls that can be activated through a combination of voice, touch and gesture. – Ann-Marie Corvin8.F48

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