Amulet finds its voice with remote control that listens


DUBLIN TECHNOLOGY start-up Amulet Devices has been shortlisted as one of 15 international finalists for the inaugural i-stage awards from the influential Consumer Electronics Association (CEA).

The CEA is the organisation behind the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) held in Las Vegas every January, where new products for the year are showcased. Amulet has been recognised for its voice-enabled remote control which allows digital media to be controlled using spoken commands, such as "play artist U2".

Founded in late 2007, Amulet displayed a proof-of-concept at a consumer show in Ireland that year and following a year of development will be introduced to the US market over the next six months. Chief executive Garry McMullan said being chosen as a finalist will be a major boost for Amulet's entry to the US.

"We can't wait to show America how well voice works as an interface to all your digital media," said McMullan. "There is some tough competition among the other entries, but we are confident we'll put on a good performance."

Currently Amulet are demonstrating the remote working with a Windows Media Centre PC connected to a digital television service.

Based on Microsoft technology, the system is designed to be a more efficient way to deal with the different types of content such as music, photos, video and TV, on a media centre, as compared to navigating through on-screen menus.

Similar to the iPhone, the remote has an accelerometer which knows when the device is tilted or turned. When the user raises it to a vertical point, a green light comes on for spoken commands. Hints of the most likely commands are displayed at the bottom of each screen. The system can be told to "skip over ads" on recorded content and users simply have to say the name of the channel rather than know what station number it is.

Engineering director Steve Collins, who invented Amulet's core technology, says the firm plans to create additional products such as a wrist-mounted device and a badge (or "amulet"), both of which would allow media to be controlled from any room in the house. The team believe that worn devices such as this would make the technology more attractive for the home automation market.

At CES in January, Amulet will display two versions of the device. A high-end remote, which can be used for multi-room control and which can be customised by professional installers, will retail for $500-600, while a single room version, designed for self-installation, will sell for $250-300.

Amulet, which has been privately funded to date, will present at the i-stage finals on October 20th to a panel of judges which includes Kevin Kelly, editor of Wiredmagazine, and Ryan Block, founder of Engadget.