Developer Unveils 'Segway' Of Remotes, Could Segue TV From Channels To Pointing

To the visible discomfort of a TV Guide executive sitting in the room, executives of an innovative new TV navigation system unveiled plans to launch a radical approach early next year that promises to make watching TV much more like pointing and clicking a PC screen or using a Web browser. "We contend that the up, down, left, right paradigm is broken," declared Mitch Praver, executive vice president-business development of Hillcrest Labs, which will officially announce its company and its new HoME navigation system in January during the Consumer Electronics Show.

Brandishing a futuristic-looking remote control dubbed The Loop, Praver pointed and clicked his way through a demonstration during Thursday's session of the Carat Digital Exchange in New York, that caused a stir among many in the room.

"It's the Segway of remote controls," said one attendee referring to The Loop, a hand-held ring that had only two buttons on it. "It looks like something out of Star Trek," said another.

"We wanted to show that navigation could be done with as few buttons as possible. In this case, it's two buttons," said Praver, who went on to emphasize that as cool as The Loop is, Hillcrest is "not a remote control company" and plans to license its system to other consumer electronics manufacturers and TV set marketers.

The real breakthrough, he said, would be taking TV's "user interface" from a linear remote control and text-based navigation world to a three-dimensional Web-like experience in which viewers could point and click through thousands and potentially millions of programming options.

The new navigation, he said, would allow viewers to determine their own point of reference, including moving in a "temporal" left to right manner on the screen, or even "telescoping" in to specific programming options.

"It's a spatial thing," he said, touting that the method would change the way people interact with TV, enhancing advertising and "t-commerce" opportunities.

While the system has a Web-like interface, Praver said, "We are designing the Hillcrest environment for the six-foot experience and the 10-foot experience," not a "two-foot" PC interface. In fact, Hillcrest already is designing features that will integrate Web content directly off the Internet onto a TV set with a graphical orientation that is more conducive to viewers than surfers, showing an example based on the online Movielink service, which was ported into Hillcrest's TV navigation system.

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