Cats can now control your TV thanks to Lancaster researchers

The days of searching for the TV remote are over because you can now change the channel with your pet cat – yes a real cat.

Researchers at Lancaster University have come up with new gesture technology which can turn everyday objects into remote controls.

A cat could control your TV say Lancaster University researchers. Picture by Gerry Slade.

A cat could control your TV say Lancaster University researchers. Picture by Gerry Slade.


It will no longer matter if the remote has slipped down the side of the sofa, with a flick of your hand, head or an object, you can change the channel, volume or view on your television.


“Our method allows for a much more user-friendly experience where you can change channels without having to put down your drink, or change your position, whether that is relaxing on the sofa or standing in the kitchen following a recipe,” said Christopher Clarke, PhD student at Lancaster University’s School of Computing and Communications, and developer of the technology.


“Objects in the house can now easily become remote controls so there are no more frantic searches when your favourite programme is about to start on another channel, and now everyone in the room has the ‘remote.’


“You could even change the channel with your pet cat.”
Researchers from Lancaster University have come up with ‘Matchpoint: Spontaneous spatial coupling of body movement for touchless pointing.’

Christopher Clarke, PhD student at Lancaster Universitys School of Computing and Communications, and developer of the Matchpoint technology. The three objects on his desk can be assigned to different functions.

Christopher Clarke, PhD student at Lancaster Universitys School of Computing and Communications, and developer of the Matchpoint technology. The three objects on his desk can be assigned to different functions.


The technology, which only requires a webcam, works by displaying moving targets that orbit a small circular widget in the corner of the screen.


The user synchronises the direction of movement of the target, with their hand, head or an object, to achieve what researchers call ‘spontaneous spatial coupling’, which activates the desired function.


Users can also link stationary objects to controls – a mug sat on a table could change a song when moved left or right, and a toy could be used to adjust volume. Objects can lose their control by removing them from the camera view.

Lancaster’s technology looks for rotating movement so it doesn’t require calibration, or the software to have prior knowledge of objects.

This provides much more flexibility and ease for the user as it works even while hands are full, and while stood or slouching on the sofa.

The researchers on the paper are Christopher Clarke and Professor Hans Gellersen, both of Lancaster University’s School of Computing and Communications.

Researchers will present the technology at the UIST2017 conference in Quebec City this October.