Laser remote makes watching TV even lazier

Mar 06, 2008 By Lisa Zyga feature
Laser remote makes watching TV even lazier
In the Remote-Touch concept, the user points a laser at the screen and selects an option. A transparent substrate with tiny pyramid-shaped indents reflects the light to photodetectors on the edges of the screen, which determine the laser’s position and the user’s selection. Image credit: Pasquariello, et al.

Modern-day remote controls can be complicated. But, thankfully, researchers are making TV the relaxing, mindless pastime that it was always intended to be with a new easy-to-use remote control. The controller is a laser pointer, which can be pointed at different options on a TV screen or other large display to control volume, channels, and make other selections.

As researchers Donato Pasquariello, Gilles Vissenberg, and Galileo Destura explain in a recent issue of the Journal of Display Technology, the laser pointer takes advantage of the intuitiveness of a touchscreen display, but with a longer range. The team is from the Philips Research Laboratories in Eindhoven, The Netherlands.

The system, called “Remote-Touch,” involves three main components: the laser pointer, a micro-structured substrate that fits over the display, and position-sensitive photodetectors at the edge of the display.

“The main advantage is that it is easier and more intuitive to point at objects on the screen, instead of scrolling through a menu via buttons on a remote control or via a mouse or joystick,” Vissenberg told

When a user wants to change a setting, they point the laser at one of the objects on the screen. Placed over the screen is a transparent substrate made of polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA) with small pyramid-shaped indentations on the backside of the substrate. The pyramids, which have a base of about 50 x 50 micrometers, are designed to “capture” part of the incoming laser beam when a user “clicks” on certain points.

“The signal for the selection-click can be sent by a conventional remote control signal and then be linked to the coordinates of the laser pointer, or it can be incorporated by a modulation in the laser pointer signal itself,” Vissenberg explained.

Then, the four facets of the pyramids reflect the light in four directions: up, down, left, and right. Position-sensitive photodetectors (PSDs) located at the edges of the display detect the light at the appropriate x- and y-coordinates, determining which object on the screen was pointed at. The output of the PSD is directly linked to the TV chip. Or, if used to remotely control a computer, the laser pointer coordinates could be used as mouse coordinates, Vissenberg explained.

The researchers built a prototype of the remote-touch feature on a 21” LCD screen, using a laser pointer with a wavelength of 780 nanometers for pointing. They also developed a correction method for laser beams that were aimed at the screen from a wide angle, enabling the method to work accurately even when viewers were sitting off to the side of the screen.

The group hopes that this technique could offer an inexpensive alternative to touchscreen and other control techniques. The most commonly used touchscreen technology, called resistive touchscreen, is limited to a maximum screen size of 21”. The only option for larger screens is infrared touchscreen technology, which is very expensive. Because of its low-cost materials, the Remote-Touch concept could offer an inexpensive alternative to conventional touchscreens of any size.

More information: Pasquariello, Donato, Vissenberg, M. C. J. M., and Destura, Galileo June. “Remote-Touch: A Laser Input User-Display Interaction Technology.” Journal of Display Technology, Vol. 4, No. 1, March 2008.

Copyright 2008
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed in whole or part without the express written permission of

Explore further: The delivery drones are coming, so rules and safety standards will be needed – fast

Related Stories

A stellar setting for stargazing

Aug 16, 2012

The summer sunset has painted a vivid watercolor of orange, coral and violet over the Pacific, just past the pier in Seal Beach. But Michael Beckage already has his telescope trained on the moon.

Nanoscale nonlinear light source created

Sep 22, 2011

Not long after the development of the first laser in 1960 scientists discovered that shining a beam through certain crystals produced light of a different color; more specifically, it produced light of exactly ...

Recommended for you

Internet of things should be developable for all

Mar 30, 2015

Within the next five to ten years, around 100 billion different devices will be online. A large part of the communication takes place solely between machines, and to ensure that they can communicate, the ...

User comments : 8

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

1 / 5 (1) Mar 06, 2008
This is kind of like duckhunt except the buttons don't move around?
1 / 5 (1) Mar 06, 2008
These guys are a year late and a few dollars short. They should have just bought a Wii.

I don't know how much a "A transparent substrate with tiny pyramid-shaped indents.." with an array of thousands of sensors around the edge of the screen would cost, but it has to be more expensive than a cheap image sensor and 6 IR LEDs.
2.3 / 5 (3) Mar 06, 2008
laser? are these people crazy? Do they know how many people will be injured by reflection of the laser light? Useless product. not to mention the repeated exposure to the retna of a very bright point source as people focus on where the laser is pointing.
1 / 5 (1) Mar 06, 2008
What part of "pyramid-shaped indents reflects the light to photodetectors on the edges of the screen" translates into "back at the user's retina?"

I agree with Telsa though... They're a little late.
3 / 5 (2) Mar 06, 2008
Why can't they just keep the volume controls on the remote? Having to aim the remote sounds more difficult, not less.
1 / 5 (1) Mar 06, 2008
It's a novelty, but I don't see it going anywhere. I sit a long ways away from my TV, so a small movement in the remote would cause big jitters when pointing the laser at the screen.
not rated yet Mar 07, 2008
Well earls, there is no guarantee that people will always point the Remote at the TV. They could accidentally point it at a mirror, or a window, or a persons eye. But I'm sure the Remote has a safety feature that prevents it from activating unless it is pointed straight at the TV.
1 / 5 (3) Mar 07, 2008
Just what I need; an excuse to be even lazier than I already am.
Enter, the Matrix... "There is no television..."

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.