The wave controller, which is the brainchild of Dr Prashan Premaratne of University of Wollongong and Australian National University PhD student, Quang Nguyen, was conceived in Dr Premaratne's living room, when his wife suggested he put an end to their constant hunt around the sofa for the TV remote by inventing a 'virtual' remote.
The system works via a box, which sits in view of both TV and viewer, with a built-in camera and software that can recognise a range of hand gestures to control different devices around the house.
The initial prototype can work with up to eight different gadgets, including most makes of TVs, a DVD player, Hi-Fi system or set-top box, and allows the user to turn devices on or off, change channels and adjust the volume with the wave of a hand.
Click to enlarge
Dr Premaratne says anyone could learn the hand gestures in five minutes. One gesture is used to tell the device which item you want to switch on or adjust. A clenched fist means 'start', an outstretched hand with closed fingers means 'power on', a thumbs-up sign means 'up' and a sideways victory sign means 'channel'. The software can distinguish between real commands and unintentional gestures as well.
Although the prototype is specified to control up to eight devices, Dr Premaratne said that that the system could potentially control a much larger number of devices - with a hand gesture that allows you toggle from your TV, to your Foxtel box, right down to your ceiling fan.
Of course, it might be best not to start throwing away your remote control right now - as Premaratne admitted that there are many functions that a remote control can do that his system is not necessarily aiming to replicate.
"Our system could replace a handheld remote control for 80 percent of people - because there are many who simply aren't using all the buttons on a handheld," he said.
"I found this is the way people want to interact with their systems in future. People from the industry talked to me, saying people want some novelty in controlling their systems, which is what my system offers," he added.
The pair published their research in the Institution of Engineering and Technology's Computer Vision Research Journal in the UK in March this year.
Dr Premaratne, who says he "always wanted to be an inventor" has in the past also developed a 3D scanner for security operations that can build a 3D model of the face of someone going through an area (such as an airport) in half a second to match against a database so people of interest can be apprehended quickly.
He says he believes the new 'virtual remote' device could be on sale within three years.