Give Apple TV the Finger With Updated iPhone Remote App

Apple (s AAPL) released updates for the Apple TV and iPhone Remote app yesterday that replaces traditional controls with finger gesture controls, letting you run everything on the set-top box from your iPhone or iPod touch. The Apple Blog has the full story, but here are a few of the additions:

Video Playback

  • Flick or drag and hold to move the on-screen selection. Tap to select.
  • Tap to Play or Pause.
  • Flick left or right, or drag and hold to rewind or fast-forward.
  • Flick down to show chapter markers, then flick left or right to skip.
  • Drag two fingers left for replay.

The Apple Blog wonders whether these updates may be signs of new life for the Apple TV, which has been a bit of a red-headed stepchild in Cupertino, where it is repeatedly called a “hobby.”

Taking advantage of the iPhone’s touch capabilities as a remote is part of an overall television industry trend towards gesture controls instead of traditional buttons.

What the Wii Hath Wrought: The Gesture-Control Space Heats Up

Hillcrest Labs threw its hat into the motion-control game this week with the release of its Loop pointer to the consumer market. Up until now, the Loop wasn’t meant for the average Joe. Hillcrest was going to just continue licensing the Freespace technology built into the device to third-party manufacturers. But with consumers facing more content choices on their TVs, Hillcrest saw an opportunity. Will buttons become a thing of the past and motion controls the new norm?

Motion- or gesture-controlled devices are hot right now. Nintendo’s Wii cleverly introduced the concept and got millions of people (including yours truly) hooked on flailing their arms while playing tennis in the living room with friends. Now other companies, including Hillcrest and Microsoft, are looking to take those gesture controls beyond just games and into your everyday TV experience.

Hillcrest’s Loop is a sleek, circular device that allows you to control your PC — or your video experience when your PC is connected to your TV — by simply pointing at the screen and selecting what you want. For those who have played with the Wii, the experience is very similar. In fact, Hillcrest is suing Nintendo for patent infringement. A Hillcrest representative wouldn’t comment on the suit other than to say it is ongoing.

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