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Hillcrest Labs was a sensor processing technology company that developed freespace motion-control technology and developed the first motion-controlled remote for television. Hillcrest also invented the first graphical zoomable interface for television and Kylo, the first Web browser optimized for television. The company, based in Rockville, Maryland, was acquired by CEVA in July 2019.
Founded in 2001 as Hillcrest Communications, the company changed its name to Hillcrest Laboratories in 2005. Founder Dan Simpkins, who had previously founded SALIX technologies, believed that television content was becoming increasingly difficult to navigate, and he wanted to make it easier. To that end, Hillcrest developed Freespace motion sensing technology, which translates a user's gestures into screen motion. This allows a remote control to operate as a mouse for the television. The company also developed a graphical, zoomable interface for television content. Early investors included Grotech Ventures, New Enterprise Associates, and Columbia Capital.
In 2007, Logitech licensed Hillcrest's technology for the MX Air, a mouse that could be used in the air.
In 2008, Hillcrest licensed its technology to Kodak, for the Kodak Theatre HD Player and Pointer Remote. Also in 2008, Universal Electronics and Texas Instruments licensed Freespace for use in remote controls.
In 2009, Hillcrest released the Loop pointer for sale directly to consumers. PC World Magazine named The Loop pointer one of the “top 100 products of the year” and one of the “greatest tech designs ever.”
In 2010, Hillcrest released the Kylo browser, a free Web browser for Windows and Mac OS X, optimized for viewing on a TV screen. Hulu blocked users of Kylo from accessing the site. Hillcrest released a new version that worked with Hulu, and Hulu blocked it again. Also in 2010, LG came out with the Magic Motion remote, which used Hillcrest's technology to allow users to change channels with gestures.
In 2011, Hillcrest raised new funding from NEA, AllianceBernstein, Columbia Capital, and Grotech Ventures.
In January 2018, Hillcrest Labs launched its FSP200 processor.
In July 22, 2019, CEVA announced the acquisition of Hillcrest Labs.
Technology and products
Freespace Motion Control Technology
Freespace Motion Control Technology combined motion algorithms with MEMS accelerometers, gyroscopes, and other sensors to translate physical motions into cursor movement. The software compensates for human tremor and inadvertent movement, generating natural cursor movement.
The Freespace MotionEngine software was embedded in the Roku 2 "game remote", released in 2011, which uses Freespace to control Roku's streaming players. Freespace is also used by LG for its Smart TVs and Magic Motion Remote. The Logitech MX Air Mouse uses Freespace, and Popular Mechanics called this mouse the “best pointer we’ve tried.” Another Freespace-enabled product is the Universal Electronics remote control.
Freespace allows users to control images on a screen by using intuitive motions, allowing for a more natural method of interacting with television content compared to directional pads. It is currently used in several products, such as the Magic Motion motion-sensing remote controls that come with some of LG Electronics’ televisions. Other licensees of Freespace include Logitech, Sony's videogame division,Roku, Universal Electronics, and Zillion TV.
The Loop pointer
The Loop pointer, enabled by Hillcrest's Freespace technology, was designed to act as a mouse for television. Similar to the LG Magic Remote, the Loop senses the viewer's wrist movements and translates the gestures into onscreen movement. It has four buttons and a scroll wheel. The Loop doesn't need to be pointed at the PC, or have a direct line of sight.
The Scoop pointer
The Scoop pointer is a Freespace enabled in-air mouse that succeeded its heavier Loop predecessor. It has nine buttons and a scroll wheel.
Kylo Web browser
Kylo is a free Web browser that was optimized for the TV screen with a 10-foot user interface. It has large fonts and buttons, and an onscreen keyboard. The Kylo browser was released in March 2010, and was available for Windows and Mac OS X.
On August 19, 2008 Hillcrest Laboratories filed a complaint against Nintendo with the U.S International Trade Commission, alleging that the Wii Remote infringed on three of its patents. A fourth Hillcrest patent (for graphical interfaces displayed on television screens) was also allegedly violated. Hillcrest sought a ban on Wii consoles imported to the U.S. On August 24, 2009 Nintendo and Hillcrest reached a settlement, although the terms were not publicly disclosed.
- The Washington Post May 1, 2011. Steven Overly. As the TV market shifts, Hillcrest Labs may find its spotlight moment.
- Moren, Dan (November 11, 2006). "CES Unveiled@NY '07: Point and click coming to set-top boxes?". Macworld. Archived from the original on November 8, 2011.
- PC Magazine August 26, 2010. Mark Hachman. Hillcrest Wireless Mouse Coming to LG TVs, Sony Gaming.
- Bloomberg Businessweek. Retrieved November 11, 2011. Hillcrest Laboratories, Inc.
- "CEVA Acquires Hillcrest Labs Intelligent Sensor Technologies Business from InterDigital" (Press release). MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. and ROCKVILLE, Md: PR Newswire. 2019-07-22. Retrieved 2019-11-21.
- Techjournal South April 13, 2011. Rockville-based Hillcrest Labs nabs $5.5M for motion control tech.
- PC World October 2, 2006. Dan Tynan. The Future of Fun. Coming soon: All the movies, music, and TV you want, when and where you want them.
- PC Magazine January 11, 2006. Jeremy Kaplan. Anywhere, Anytime TV.
- Cnet.com November 8, 2006. Michael Kanellos. Space-age remote control coming in 2007.
- Popular Mechanics 2007. Retrieved November 11, 2011. Glen Derene. Wii 2.0: Loop remote lets you click by gesture.
- Popular Mechanics October 1, 2009. Logitech's MX Air Cordless Laser Mouse: Best Pointer We've Tried (with Video).
- Engadget January 22, 2009. Paul Miller. Kodak's Theatre HD Player with gyro-based Pointer Remote unboxed and reviewed.
- The Wall Street Journal November 26, 2008. Katherine Boehret. Family Snapshots in the Splendor of HD.
- Engadget March 17, 2008. Steven Kim. Universal Electronics licenses motion control, hopes you don't put your eye out. Archived 2012-06-14 at the Wayback Machine
- Electronic Design October 8, 2008. Remote Controls Exploit Freespace Technology. Archived 2011-12-04 at the Wayback Machine
- The New York Times December 9, 2009. Nick Bilton. Cable Freedom is a Click Away.
- U.S. News Money November 23, 2009. David Lagesse. iCandy: Tech Gifts Beautiful Inside and Out.
- Bloomberg Business Week June 16, 2009. Christ Albrecht. Coming Quickly to Your TV: Gesture Control.
- PC World October 26, 2009. The PC World 100: Best Products of 2009.
- PC World July 13, 2009. Hello, Gorgeous! 15 of the Greatest Tech Designs Ever.
- Macworld.com Mar 22, 2010. Christopher Breen. First Look: Kylo Media Browser.
- The Washington Post May 28, 2010. Rob Pegoraro. Kylo TV-friendly browser adds Hulu workaround (update: gets blocked again).
- Engadget.com August 26, 2010. Tim Stevens. Hillcrest Labs brings LG's Magic Motion remote to life, cheekily points out that Sony uses it, too.
- Gigaom.com April 13, 2011. Janko Roettgers. Hillcrest Labs Raises $5.5M to Remake Your TV Remote. Archived 2011-12-28 at the Wayback Machine
- "Hillcrest Labs Introduces the FSP200". www.iotevolutionworld.com. Retrieved 2018-05-29.
- TechJournal South January 7, 2008. Hillcrest Labs rings up $25M D round.
- Electronic Design September 8, 2011. William Wong. Natural User Interface Employs Sensor Integration.
- Cable & Satellite International September/October, 2011. Stephen Cousins. A view to a thrill.
- "New Products - October 2011". CED Magazine. September 30, 2011. Archived from the original on May 9, 2013.
- The Wall Street Journal August 25, 2010. Nick Wingfield. Hillcrest Sees More Movement from TV, Game Companies.
- The Daily Record August 19, 2011. Hillcrest Lab software licensed by Roku.
- The New York Times March 4, 2009. Saul Hansell. ZillionTV: Another Set-Top Box, With Ads.
- The New York Times March 5, 2009. Eric Taub. “What’s On Tonight?” Just Got Easier.
- Forbes.com November 16, 2007. Camilla Webster. Dream Tech Toys
- The New York Times June 15, 2009. Eric Taub. A Wireless Mouse That's Surfaceless Too.
- Gizmodo June 15, 2009. Mark Wilson. The Loop Controls Your TV Like the Wii for $100
- Wingfield, Nick (2008-08-21). "Start-Up Says Nintendo Violated Patents". Wall Street Journal. ISSN 0099-9660. Retrieved 2018-06-23.
- "Nintendo settles US trade fight over Wii". The Age. 2009-08-24. Retrieved 2018-06-23.
- Official website (redirects to CEVA's website)