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Motion Control UI Scores Big

Mari Silbey
8/19/2013

In a sign that motion control is all the rage these days, a Canadian startup wowed cable tech executives last week with its "natural user interface" (NUI) for navigating content on multiple video screens.

YOUi Labs, which developed the new gesture-based uSwish user interface, took home "Best New Ideas" honors at CableLabs' summer conference in Keystone, Colo. The Ottawa-based startup beat out seven other firms in CableLabs' semi-annual "Innovation Showcase" competition for new cable players.

The uSwish framework uses a cross-platform technology designed for navigating content on TV sets, set-top boxes, tablets, smartphones, and other video-enabled devices. In an eight-minute presentation, YOUi Labs CEO and Co-Founder Jason Flick explained the company's gesture-based control of a TV interface, showed off content navigation from both iOS and Android mobile devices, and demonstrated profile-driven experiences that moved between the TV set and the second screen. With the help of a camera placed on top of the TV set, Flick also highlighted how the system could recognize a viewer and tailor the viewing experience accordingly.

In his slick demo, Flick emphasized that uSwish will work with all silicon chipsets, operating systems, and video devices, "even the RDK." With that, he was referring to the Reference Design Kit, a pre-integrated software bundle for hybrid QAM/IP and IP-only set-tops, gateways, and other devices that's now taking the cable industry by storm.

"You're at war with the over-the-top guys," Frick noted. He argued that uSwish could help cable operators improve the set-top UI for viewers, boost the second-screen experience, and create a "symbiotic relationship between tablets and TVs," among other things.

Flick also sought to assure conference attendees that the uSwish technology is more than mere demo-ware. Without disclosing any names, he said YOUi has already won a contract with a Tier 1 MSO company and is building out its system for deployment in the field.

Although YOUi's focus is on multiple screens, it is far from the first tech company to build a motion-based UI for TV navigation. Most notably, Microsoft Corp. is doing the same thing with the Kinect interface for the popular Xbox game console.

In the cable space, Hillcrest Labs recently licensed the RDK developed by Comcast Corp. to integrate with its motion-controlled technology. Plus, Fanhattan has started a pilot with Cox Communications Inc. that includes a motion-sensitive remote control for its TV set-top. (See Hillcrest Snags Comcast RDK License and Cox Flirts with Fanhattan.)

— Mari Silbey, special to Light Reading Cable

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MattnelsonUX
MattnelsonUX
8/20/2013 | 4:01:20 PM
Re: So what's new here?
Hi Sarah and Carol - Thanks for weighing in.

The motion camera was one component of our presentation...but I believe that the most valuable component is more about beautiful cross platform UI.

On one hand, we see an industry that's struggling to build elegant UIs across a fragmented platform ecosystem. On the other, we see a customer base conditioned to expect rich user experiences from other technologies they use everyday (Apple). YOUi Labs lives in that gap between current cable UI experiences and thier customers advancing expectations.

The industry recently embraced HTML5 as a vehicle to go cross platform (until now the only real option), but its quickly learning that HTML5 isn't the answer.  As an open standard, it's inherently years behind the platforms. So, cable operators are foced to water down the UI to the lowest common denominator. 

Enter our software (uSwish) reads the files created by the UI design tools that worldclass designers use everyday (After Effects etc.) and exports in the native codebases of a plethora of devices. No design compromise. No redundant app teams. And, a symbiotic UI relationship between devices.

Full presentation: http://youtu.be/bXINtjVTNac

 
albreznick
albreznick
8/20/2013 | 11:56:27 AM
Re: So what's new here?
Have you hit any snags with Chromecast yet, Sarah? And does it make it superfluous to have a smart TV now?
Carol Wilson
Carol Wilson
8/19/2013 | 3:55:14 PM
Re: So what's new here?
Interesting - I guess it just reinforces the notion that being innovative isn't always as important as having the right timing. 
Sarah Thomas
Sarah Thomas
8/19/2013 | 3:53:31 PM
Re: So what's new here?
I did! You can expect my review of it, along with House of Cards and a bunch of other shows I'm just now getting into, soon. I realized I probably didn't need to buy the Chromecast since I have an Internet-connected TV, but it's pretty slick and easy to use. I think it'll get more valuable when it expands the apps you can access too.
Sarah Thomas
Sarah Thomas
8/19/2013 | 3:53:30 PM
Re: So what's new here?
I did! You can expect my review of it, along with House of Cards and a bunch of other shows I'm just now getting into, soon. I realized I probably didn't need to buy the Chromecast since I have an Internet-connected TV, but it's pretty slick and easy to use. I think it'll get more valuable when it expands the apps you can access too.
Carol Wilson
Carol Wilson
8/19/2013 | 3:51:54 PM
Re: So what's new here?
So you got Chromecast? When can we expect your review?
msilbey
msilbey
8/19/2013 | 3:49:19 PM
Re: So what's new here?
Carol- Best I can tell it's the combination of motion-control and integration with second-screen UIs that won YOUi the vote. The fact that the company has a deployment underway may also have swayed folks. Hillcrest is just now returning to the cable industry, and as far as I've heard, doesn't have any cable customers yet.
Sarah Thomas
Sarah Thomas
8/19/2013 | 3:43:42 PM
Re: So what's new here?
I'm with you, Carol. I don't really see the excitement around motion control. I know it's been big in video games, but I'm not convinced it's the best way to interact with the TV for regular viewing. I've been using my phone as the remote with my new Chromecast. I think it's an input device that makes a lot of sense -- it's easy, familar, and ties into second-screen viewing ambitions.
Carol Wilson
Carol Wilson
8/19/2013 | 3:30:42 PM
So what's new here?
I'm glad to see Hillcrest mentioned here as the motion control portion of this doesn't seem like anything all that new - what is it that's got everyone so dazzled? I must be missing something. 
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