Ultamation wins 4th Crestron EMEA Award

We are thrilled to announce we have won our fourth Crestron EMEA (Europe, Middle East & Africa) Award!  We have won The Most Unique Application (Residential) with our “Through the Looking Glass” solution; an amalgamation of touchpanel control, augmented reality and voice control to work in a residential or business environment.
To find out all about it, read more here or follow us on Twitter @Ultamation

Entitled “Crestron Through the Looking Glass”, Ultamation’s solution pushes the boundary of the traditional touch screen experience to one which, as the name suggests, you simply look through in order to control devices.  This opens the door to some exciting possibilities covering assisted living, aesthetics and usability, and a range of other unique possibilities.

Ultamation worked with The Virtual Engineering Centre (VEC) to create an augmented reality app which can be used to control connected devices in a smart home setting.  Although still only in a proof-of-concept stage, it provides a mechanism by which visual features around the home or workspace can be recognised through the camera of a device; these are then identified by the control system (in this case, Crestron) and pertinent information or controls can be displayed over the camera image.

Our demonstration system uses a simple floating menu system which, while tracking the features as the user moves the camera, provides interaction with the feature in display. So simply by looking at the TV, it offers relevant options for control, such as source selection or recently watched content, or a light fitting provides discrete control, or mood setting for the entire space.  A visual feature need not even physically be the thing you wish to control. A piece of artwork substitutes for the room’s environmental controls, removing on-wall clutter and leaving the aesthetics of the space undiminished by technology.

When the power of visual feature recognition is combined with speech-to-text services the concept takes on another dimension and both simplifies and increases reliability of the voice control solutions currently available, such as Alexa, which can often trigger unintended actions.  This solution is easy to configure and doesn’t require any complex modelling or calibration. Features are identified through images taken with the device’s camera, from multiple angles to provide a high degree of feature recognition stability. This ease of set-up was an essential consideration to allow for changes in environment, and the image recognition is highly adaptable to variations between the captured image and the current scene – such as; allowing for people to be in the image. 
While the proof-of-concept employs Ultamation’s own simple menu system, a technology such as Crestron’s Smart Graphics, or the next generation of HTML5 based user interface technologies would provide greater expression in the augmented reality overlays.

When we first embarked on this project, our motivation was simply to find innovative new ways to interact with Crestron control systems. As the proof-of-concept took shape, we have been highly encouraged by feedback from a number of quarters.
Residential clients tend to look at this as something ultra-modern, though the enabling technology is currently not ready for regular, casual use.
Commercial users see utility where the solution could enhance the meeting space experience both providing simpler interaction with a wide range of technologies – look at a light and say “brighter”, or in a passive exploration – look around the space and view the options without needing to press buttons and wonder what the outcome might be.
We took the concept to the Smart Factory Expo 2017 held in November and received enthusiastic support from well-known names such as DELL, Bentley and Tata Steel for applications such as works order retrieval and inspection testing – an exciting prospect for automation and the Internet of Things.

One of the most beneficial opportunities would be in assisted living. Rather than present a traditional graphical experience to the user, they can simply identify a feature and then direct voice commands to the Crestron control system to effect change – when combined with 3rd party technology like X (Google) Glass or Epson’s Moverio this provides a truly unique, hands-free solution to Crestron control.

There has been some wonderful feedback from across the industry:
This is amazing! You have an awesome team!!!”
“I have some fabulous ideas for making use of your product”
“Love the product”

To see the concept in action against working Crestron installations click here.

For further updates and to hear the latest news on the imminent release on Android working with Crestron follow us on Twitter @ultamation.