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