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Finger power

Sometimes the oldest ideas make for the best new inventions. I thought of that recently as I was researching some ideas for articles in Broadcast Engineering. I was investigating trends and the future of the home TV environment when I found some interesting research on remote controls. While today we use a small box pointed at the TV to control the set, new research predicts that soon viewers will be able to simply point at the TV with their hand to make things happen.

It all reminded me of playing cowboys with my pals when I was a kid. Sometimes we had toy pistols, sometimes not. It didn't really matter because we would still use our hands as six-shooters. With that pointing finger stuck out, three fingers folded back and our pistol hammer (thumb) stuck way up in the air, we were ready to take on the bad guys anytime. “Bang, you're shot. Bang, bang, you're dead. No I'm not, you only winged me,” we'd say.

Through a bit of imagination and by simply using our hands, as kids we were able to interact with, even control, our environment. Now it appears the old-fashioned pointing finger may come back into vogue.

Swedish TV researchers have developed what they call the future TV remote control. They claim that instead of the viewer having to hold and point a device at the TV to change channels or adjust the volume, merely pointing at the TV will soon be enough.

The idea is to relegate the remote to obscurity and, instead, allow viewers to merely wave their hands at the TV set to make changes. Sounds good, doesn't it?

Can't you just see it now… hold up three fingers and the channel changes. Two fingers up increases the volume. Two fingers down decreases the volume. Clench your fist and the set mutes.

Would we all start to look like Leonard Bernstein or Eugene Ormandy conducting our TV sets? Waving hands from easy chairs across America would cause millions of sets to switch, change and turn on or off. The TVs obligingly take commands from the tip of a finger or the jerk of a thumb. Up that volume, change that channel, mute that speaker, change the input to satellite. No more looking for lost remotes in the sofa cushions. No batteries needed. Wow, I'm getting carried away here.

After I calmed down, I asked myself another question. With all this new intelligence being built into our sets and STBs, could some, shall we say, more cryptic commands be allowed?

The new PVRs and smart STBs can learn your favorite TV shows and take you there, or even automatically record them. So what's to prevent these same devices from banning certain programs from your TV if you don't want to see them again? Suppose you never want to see those worthless garbage and channel fillers like Cops XXIII, Judge whoever or those mind-numbing auction channels. What if there was a unique command that the tuner would recognize as “dump this and don't go there again,” say a thumbs-down or even the middle finger? The bird!

Tired of Peter Jennings dumping on Bush or Pat Roberts carping about feminists and gays? Want to send Bill Maher to the trash bin for calling the U.S. military cowardly? Just give them the finger and they're gone. Think of the empowerment you'd feel.

Best of all, now when you flip someone off, it'd really have some results.

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