August 17, 2009

CRISTAL Replaces Remote Control With Coffee Table

CRISTAL is a project that is hoping to capture the use of two living room fixtures: the coffee table and the remote control.

CRISTAL, which stands for Control of Remotely Interfaced Systems using Touch-based Actions in Living spaces, is part of a project being developed by Stacey Scott, assistant professor at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada, and colleagues.

CRISTAL aims to combine the plethora of remote controls used by modern media consumers with their coffee tables, making the surface become a flat, interactive touch screen device that can control everything in the room "“ from lighting to loading movies.

"We wanted a social aspect to activities such as choosing what to watch on TV and we wanted to make the process easy and intuitive," Scott told Wired.

CRISTAL's development team showed visitors to this month's Siggraph graphics conference what the device was capable of.

CRISTAL makes the coffee table become a universal remote rather than just a piece of furniture to place books and remote controls.

"Every time you get a new device into the living room, you get a new remote with it," said Scott.

"And instead of difficult programmable universal remotes, this offers intuitive mapping of the different devices and home."

CRISTAL's camera takes a real-time image of the living room and projects it onto the surface of the table. Users can interact with electronic devices in the room by simply tapping, dragging and dropping as they would on any other touch screen gadget.

Users can adjust the brightness of the room's lighting by simply dragging their finger in an up or down motion over the lamp on the tabletop image.

Additionally, since many users view programs and movies from digital storage devices, CRISTAL allows them to swipe through their digital library and even view previews of the programs before choosing to watch it on their TV.

But Christian Mller-Tomfelde, an Australian researcher who is currently writing a book on research in tabletop displays, told Wired that it could be between five and 10 years before multitouch tabletops reach the average consumer's living room.

"The investment to get such a coffee-table display into the living room is not to be underestimated, as we can see with Microsoft's Surface technology," said Mller-Tomfelde.


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