Universal Electronics Licenses Remote-Control Technology from Hillcrest Labs

Universal Electronics, the largest supplier of remote controls to the cable industry, signed a license agreement with Hillcrest Labs for its patented Freespace pointing and motion-control technology, which allows a wireless device to navigate through an interactive program guide by making computer-mouse-like movements through the air.

Under the agreement, UEI said it will be “exploring potential product concepts to offer pointing and motion-control technology to its customers around the world,” but it didn’t announce any definitive product plans to use Hillcrest’s technology.

To date, Hillcrest has been pitching its technology to cable operators in the form of the “Loop” -- a pointer-based TV remote that uses just two buttons and a scroll wheel.

"As consumer demand for television entertainment and control continues to evolve, we are always seeking new ways to differentiate," UEI chairman and CEO Paul Arling said in a statement. "We're pleased to partner with Hillcrest to license Freespace technology and explore innovative ways to help users to more easily interact with their entertainment devices and content."

The UEI deal is a significant boost for Rockville, Md.-based Hillcrest, which was founded in 2001 but has yet to make a big impact on the TV-remote business. So far, it commercialized its Freespace technology in Logitech’s MX Air wireless computer mouse, but it is still wooing cable set-top and TV manufacturers to adopt its approach. The company did receive $25 million in new financial backing in January, picking up a new investor in AllianceBernstein and receiving additional funding from existing investors venture-capital firms New Enterprise Associates, Columbia Capital and Grotech Capital Group.

"We are very proud that UEI has licensed Freespace technology and is investigating ways to incorporate pointing and motion control in the next generation of remote-control technologies,” Hillcrest CEO Dan Simpkins said in a statement. “Coupled with our HoME software platform, Freespace technology enables consumers to browse, discover and interact with digital content on TV in entirely new ways."