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Movea’s motion-sensing chips will make TV remotes smarter

Motion-control technologies are a hot commodity. Microsoft’s Kinect motion-control system has proven to be a big hit, and Microsoft’s been scooping up companies such as 3DV Systems and Canesta to expand its capabilities.

Now Texas Instruments has endorsed a technology from motion-control startup Movea that will let consumers use gestures to control things on a TV screen or other consumer electronics gear in a way that is more interactive and engaging than a simple button-based remote. Dallas-based TI is using Movea’s motion-sensing chips in its reference design (a master design that others will use) for a remote control. The companies made the announcement today at the Consumer Electronics Show, where motion-control systems are expected to make a big splash.

Sam Guilaume, chief executive of Grenoble, France-based Movea, said the reference design makes it easy to build a working system for motion-sensing control systems. The chip technology includes wireless radio, micro-electro mechanical systems (MEMS) chips that can detect acceleration, and processors.

One of the reasons that TV remotes are getting more complicated is that users are buying connected TVs, which require the user to navigate an interface not only for watching TV but also for surfing the web. The motion-sensing remotes allow users to operate from farther distances and without the need for a line-of-sight connection, as required with today’s infrared remotes. Movea has a U.S. headquarters in Milpitas, Calif. It already makes devices such as an “air mouse,” (pictured), where users can point the mouse at a screen and make things happen on a screen through gestures.

Yesterday, Movea also announced that Free, an internet TV service provider in France, will use Movea’s MotionIC technology in new remote controls that will accompany the Freebox set-top boxes being deployed late this year. Free has 4 million IPTV subscribers. Movea says it has more than 250 patents.

The company was founded in 2007 and has 48 employees. Movea’s Gyration brand has also sold more than 3 million pointing devices to date. Rivals include Hillcrest Labs and Sensor Platforms. Investors include Technicolor, GIMV, I-Source, and CEA Investissement. To date Movea has raised $9 million in two rounds.