At yesterday evening’s Bay Area LabVIEW User Group meeting, I saw a very cool LabVIEW demo given by Anders Grunnet-Jepsen. Anders’ company, ThinkOptics, makes the Wavit remote control, which is basically a combined remote-control and pointing/gesturing device for computers and media PCs. If that doesn’t make sense, just think of it as a Wii Remote for your controlling your computer or a wireless mouse that you can wave around in the air.
So, how does it work? Basically (and I’m paraphrasing greatly), the remote control has an infrared camera that is looking at two LEDS (which appear as two bright dots to the remote’s camera) on the LED bar, which sits on or near your screen. The remote calculates the position and orientation of the remote relative to the LED bar (and thus the relative position of the remote relative to the TV/Computer, after a simple calibration step). The remote then transmits this position and orientation data via RF to a receiver in the LED bar, which then is communicated over USB to the computer.
It might have been partially due to Anders having a lot of practice using the Wavit, but it seems like a very efficient way to control a computer. After seeing the demo, I can’t help but think that this will be one of the principle ways that we interact with computers and televisions, very soon.
Another reason that this demo was cool, was that Anders showed off a lot of very impressive LabVIEW software that the Wavit controls and communicates with. ThinkOptics provides free LabVIEW drivers for the Wavit, so that you can use it to control anything that you can control with LabVIEW! Now, how cool is that?
What reminded me, today, to write this post is that I watching a talk by Clay Shirky. In it he describes an event where he’s having dinner with some friends and the friends’ four-year-old runs behind the TV to look for the mouse (because, TVs should obviously have a mouse to control them):
I was having dinner with a group of friends about a month ago, and one of them was talking about sitting with his four-year-old daughter watching a DVD. And in the middle of the movie, apropos nothing, she jumps up off the couch and runs around behind the screen. That seems like a cute moment. Maybe she’s going back there to see if Dora is really back there or whatever. But that wasn’t what she was doing. She started rooting around in the cables. And her dad said, “What you doing?” And she stuck her head out from behind the screen and said, “Looking for the mouse.”
Here’s something four-year-olds know: A screen that ships without a mouse ships broken. Here’s something four-year-olds know: Media that’s targeted at you but doesn’t include you may not be worth sitting still for.
I think it’s cool that LabVIEW is helping to shape the future and fixing the things that are broken in our world. And, it’s very cool to be in the San Francisco Bay Area and get to see these new inventions, and their inventors, first hand.