TV controls could use gestures like Minority Report
The "Matchpoint" system makes it possible interact with screens simply by using body movements, or waving objects.
In the sci-fi film Minority Report, actor Tom Cruise used arm and hand gestures to manipulate screen images.
The movie has echoes of the new technology invented by computer scientists at the University of Lancaster.
Requiring only a simple webcam, Matchpoint works by displaying moving targets that orbit a small circular "widget" in the corner of the screen.
The user synchronises hand, head or object movements with the targets to activate functions such as volume, changing channel or viewing a menu.
Because the software is not trained to look for a specific body part, it provides a lot of flexibility. It works even when hands are full, or while standing or slouching on the sofa.
Team leader Christopher Clarke, a PhD student at the university's School of Computing and Communications, said: "Spontaneous spatial coupling is a new approach to gesture control that works by matching movement instead of asking the computer to recognise a specific object.
"Our method allows for a much more user-friendly experience where you can change channels without having to put down your drink, or change your position, whether that is relaxing on the sofa or standing in the kitchen following a recipe.
"Everyday objects in the house can now easily become remote controls so there are no more frantic searches for remote controls when your favourite programme is about to start on another channel, and now everyone in the room has the 'remote'.
"You could even change the channel with your pet cat."
A paper on the technology will be presented at the UIST (User Interface Software and Technology) 2017 conference in Quebec City, Canada, later this month.