- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 8, 2008

LAS VEGAS — Daniel Simpkins, founder of Hillcrest Labs in Rockville, Md., is here at the Consumer Electronics Show to demonstrate his company’s interactive television technology that lets viewers load pictures, music and videos from their computer onto their TV.

Consumers who are only using their high-definition televisions to watch TV aren’t getting their money’s worth, he says.

“This is a really big deal for consumers,” he says, adding that there is no reason to watch videos or listen to music on a small computer screen when there’s an HD TV in the next room.

The notion of linking the TV to computers and the Internet may not be new, but Mr. Simpkins says Hillcrest has developed a way for consumers to organize all their content in an easy-to-use way, starting with a revolutionary remote control called Loop. The device, shaped like a large doughnut, has only two buttons and a scroll wheel. Viewers hold the remote and control the action by pointing, much like the Nintendo Wii game console.

In a demonstration, he holds the device, standing about 3 feet from a TV. Icons on a home screen light up in response to sweeping motions with the remote. He can choose from several options, including movies, photos and music. Clicking on the movie library prompts a visual display of DVD covers.

“Consumers are getting bombarded with electronics,” he says. “They don’t have a good way to manage all that content.”

The company has tested the remote with people between the ages of 5 and 90, Mr. Simpkins says, and the results have been positive.

“Generally, all consumers learn to point between three and 11 months,” he says. “Elderly people love this because they don’t have to read the buttons.”

The product is particularly well-suited to places like the District, Mr. Simpkins says, which has a “highly intelligent work force but not a technologically advanced work force compared to other areas.”

Hillcrest is talking with consumer electronics manufacturers to license the TV platform, called Home, and expects to see video providers embedding the product in cable boxes and other media players.

Mr. Simpkins says there will be some announcements later this year but won’t divulge more than that.

Hillcrest has already licensed its Loop remote pointing technology, called Freespace, to hardware company Logitech, which has developed a cordless mouse that can be picked up and used like an interactive remote with one’s computer.

Read Kara Rowland’s Tech Zoo blog from the Consumer Electronics Show at www3.washingtontimes.com/blogs.

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