Finally, Effort-Free TV Watching

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You know we're living a ludicrously easy life when a sufficient number of our peers have apparently complained loudly and frequently enough about the physical toll of changing TV channels that forces have been mobilized to make it easier.

No kidding. Hitachi Corporation, for one, has apparently determined that the act of pushing buttons on a remote control so taxes a large enough segment of consumers that a viable mass market exists for a less-strenuous alternative. And, as one might expect of a consumer electronics company scrambling to keep pace with customers who have officially surrendered themselves to their unrestrained gluttony for self-indulgence, Hitachi has its engineering and science staffs working overtime to ease the burden on those watching TV.

So get ready to celebrate, all you delicate flowers out there, because easier it will be, easy to such an extent that changing channels will literally be effortless—as in requiring zero effort, as in the logical next step after this will be technologies designed to mitigate TVNSS (TV Neck Strain Syndrome), a soon-to-be-diagnosed musculo-skeletal affliction brought on by being forced to lift one's chin off one's chest for hours on end in order to watch one's favorite programming. Inhuman.

At present, there are two competing channel-changing technologies in development, only one of which requires any discernable muscle movement. Due to this design flaw, it is destined to be obsolete even before its forecasted launch three years from now.

Basically, instead of pushing remote control buttons, this technology requires the user to make distinct hand gestures, which are monitored and translated by a remote device into instructions that can control the TV, the DVD player, the stereo, and a range of other gadgets.

The "thumbs up" sign, for instance, will move the TV channel up. (One can only imagine the channel-changing pandemonium that would ensue in a house full of optimists. There needs to be a note in the owner's manual advising against asking questions like "How's it going?" within range of the monitoring device.)

An upraised clenched fist controls some other function, a sideways peace sign another, a handshake gesture another, and on and on. Call me a spoiler, but I'm thinking that if you're looking for a low-impact way to turn your TV on, flip through a few channels, and pipe it all through your home theater system, pushing a couple buttons on a remote seems a whole lot easier than performing the kind of tai chi this technology requires.

And just think about the stress those gyrations will put on various elbow, wrist, and shoulder tendons. Why, it makes me want to drop everything and call a personal injury lawyer this very minute.

Thankfully, though, Hitachi is well down the road to perfecting what promises to be the perfect Christmas present—a perpetual anti-motion machine, if you will—for those individuals who, through no effort of their own (pun intended), have earned a place of honor in the pantheon of the laziest human beings ever to exist in the history of time.
Are you ready for this? Three words: Thought-Activated Television.

A silly-looking, sensor-covered cap will measure changes in blood flow to key areas of the wearer's brain and send signals through optical fibers to a small computer, which will then "interpret the person's intentions." It then triggers the remote control, changing the channel or volume or switching the TV on or off, as desired.

I'm a little uneasy about the whole "reading intentions" thing. I don't know about you, but when I'm channel surfing, my intentions are couched more in terms of content than numbers. In other words, I'm not thinking, "Gee, I would like to go to Channel 118 now." I'm thinking (hypothetically, dear wife), "Gee, I would like to find Pamela Anderson running down a beach in slow motion now."

That would seem to be a fairly major drawback to this channel-selection-by-blood-flow technology. I fear that doors accessing the deep recesses of the cap-wearer's psyche will be involuntarily thrown open to whoever else happens to be in the room at the time. With today's push-button remotes, a desire to watch Jerry Springer can be kept to oneself. With thought-controlled TV though...if you want to watch Jerry, you will be watching Jerry, by golly, even if your Mensa pals are sitting on the sofa right next to you.

Obviously, I'm more than a little skeptical of these technologies, but then I'm pretty skeptical of any technology. So I asked no less an authority than a member of an average American household—one who atrophies in front of the television for over eight hours per day—if he would ever consider replacing his remote control with hand movements or thought-controlled technology. "Don't be crazy," he said. "Now if Hitachi could come up with some technology that would allow me to watch TV without having to lift my chin off my chest, well, then we'd have something to talk about. See, I've got this pain in my neck..."

Surely we shouldn't be required to suffer such hardship. Will technology step forward to spare us this anguish? Stay tuned.

Michael Stuhlreyer is a business writer, a graphic designer, and president of Stuhlreyer Business Instruments, LLC., a Nashville-based firm specializing in the creation of marketing and sales support materials, as well as articles, case studies, and product profiles for technology companies. Contact Mike at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or visit his Web site, www.bizinstruments.com.

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