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Do IMU-Based Remotes Work?

One of the booths I stopped by at CES was Philips, who was demonstrating their uWand. Turns out, this isn’t that new a product, having been introduced in 2009-10 (clearly I wasn’t paying attention then). In their view, the market is only now catching up to this kind of technology, as is clear with the variety of Smart TV and gaming remotes being designed and marketed.

The uWand uses a different approach than some of the other devices, which tend to be either IMU-based or regular-camera-based. The uWand relies on an IR camera in the remote, which tracks a row of 1 or more IR LEDs at the bottom of the TV screen (more LEDs providing better range and angle). In the discussion, the comparison was often made to benefits as compared to a gyroscope-based solution because gyroscopes are known to drift.

So I asked about compensated systems, where a magnetometer is used to correct for gyro drift. And another gentleman came by and flatly said that it doesn’t work. I tried to push and pull a bit; yes, magnetic anomalies complicate matters, but in a living room, you likely have a fixed set of magnetic artifacts, for the most part, so you’d think that they would be seen as a “common mode” artifact and be subject to removal. And sensor fusion is getting pretty good these days. And I’ve seen demonstrations of IMU-based remotes that seem to have good response.

Then again, I’ve never used one for a long period of time, so perhaps after an hour or two (more? less?) they need refreshing to work again. And I have seen some that need the figure-8 calibration. But, given the absolute nature of the, “It doesn’t work” declaration, I feel the need to toss the question out for discussion.

To be clear, the question is not, “Which is better, uWand or IMU-based?” The question is, “For the purposes of TV remotes, can an IMU-based system using suitable sensor fusion be made to work to the level that would satisfy a consumer?”

What say you?

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