Philips has a solution to the button-laden madness of today's remote controls, and it behaves a lot like the motion controllers of Nintendo's Wii.
Like the now-iconic Wii remote, Philips' uWand contains accelerometers and a camera that communicates with an infrared sensor below the television. This allows users to point the remote like an air mouse while also flicking or twisting the remote to scroll through long lists of information. The uWand also detects pushing and pulling, which could be used to zoom in and out in a Web browser or 3D menu. For text input, the uWand has a full QWERTY keyboard on its back side.
While the technology itself isn't revolutionary, Philips makes a strong argument for its use in televisions: As connected TVs become more popular, navigation is getting complicated. We're no longer dealing with simple lists of channels. Platforms like Boxee or Samsung's Smart TV present users with multiple panels of information, which make button-based navigation cumbersome.
Philips isn't hogging the uWand for its own products. Instead, the company wants to license the technology to electronics manufacturers and service providers such as cable companies and telcos. Philips hopes to make its first deals this year, resulting in consumer products in 2012.
Of course, there's competition. PrimeSense's motion-sensing camera that helps power Kinect for Xbox 360 is coming to home theater PCs, and a bunch of TV manufacturers at this year's Consumer Electronics Show were demonstrating touch screen remotes for smartphones and tablets. But I'll take any of them over the monstrosity that comes with your typical cable box.
Check out our complete coverage of CES 2011.