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The remote control could be the Achilles heel for retail streamer boxes as operator STBs exploit voice and touch

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The remote control can become a point of differentiation for service providers and encourage Pay TV subscribers to watch streaming services through their UI, as low-cost streaming (connected TV) boxes are unable to keep up with the latest developments in touch-based, voice-based and haptic (feel-based feedback) interaction. That is the view of Ruwido, whose advanced remote controls power services like Swisscom TV 2.0 and Sky Q. At ANGA Com this week the company was showing off its TICTACTILE remote control, which is a notable advance in touch-based control.

Nina Forman, Marketing Manager at Ruwido, said it is not just the functionality that matters. “It is about the feeling of the remote control, the appearance and materials used. We think the remote control is the business heart of the operator, and users should be proud to have it on their living room table. They should have the same emotional attachment to it as their smart devices [e.g. smartphone and tablet].”

The TICTACTILE remote control has a touch surface that stretches across a 4×3 grid of finger-sized indents (think of a tray in which a dozen marbles could sit without rolling around, their top halves exposed) that each relate to a different UI function, like ‘popular movies’ or ‘apps’. In Ruwido’s ANGA demonstration, the on-screen navigation ‘grid’ mirrors the remote control ‘grid’ and users can glide their thumb from one function to the next, out of one indent and over the intervening contour and into another indent, with a great degree of control.

It is very hard to ‘miss’ the function you want to select by moving too far in one direction, for example. This confidence, with the indents and contours providing what Ruwido calls haptic feedback, allows viewers to quickly move around a wide choice of selection options whilst watching the TV screen and without looking down at the remote control.

TICTACTILE was launched at IBC last year and Ruwido is so sure that this is the future of touch-based, multi-choice human-service interaction that it is targeting the in-car entertainment market (with the touch indents on a steering wheel, e.g.), and also what the company calls the ‘convenient home’ market, which is their take on the smart home. The Austrian company thinks all these services could follow a single, unified navigation paradigm to offer familiarity to consumers. “We have a vision of one interaction for all screens,” Forman revealed. Harmonizing ‘convenient home’ and television user interface designs is certainly realistic, given how many service providers will offer both services.

Ruwido will use IBC in September to articulate its role as a control interface for the ‘convenient home’. Forman explains the choice of terminology. “Do we really want the machines to become smart? We think control is for humans, and not for machines.”

Ruwido has a strong research organisation that regularly tests its theories as well as interaction concepts with real people and the issue of control has been high on the agenda recently. The company is in the middle of a research programme that explores how people relate to voice technologies and the early data (from across several major European markets) shows that when it comes to television, people prefer to press a remote control button to activate voice recognition rather than rely on ‘ambient’ speech recognition systems that use a far-field microphone and come to life when they hear their name (like Alexa). You can read more on that subject here.

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