Panasonic Reinvents the Remote

If your house is like mine, you have enough remote controls lying around to fill a 10-gallon trash bin. In fact, if Panasonic's new EZ Touch Remote catches on, that's exactly where your old remotes may wind up.

Most remotes are the same - slabs 'o plastic with hard or soft buttons covering one side. The EZ Touch is being shown as a prototype at the CEATEC Show in Japan (September 30 - October 4). Not only does the EZ Touch eschew hard buttons, it also abandons soft buttons too. Instead, everything is placed onscreen. The theory is that when you're trying to control something, looking somewhere else (like down at a remote) is inherently inefficient. (Touch screens are especially suspect because, unlike hard buttons, they don't offer any tactile feedback). Instead, the EZ Touch puts everything up onscreen.

Imagine Wii, but designed as a remote control. You don't need to look at the remote at all; virtual buttons appear onscreen, complete with your virtual thumbs pushing them. Sounds weird, but it appears to work like a charm. The EZ Touch can use gestures for scrolling, and turned sideways to provide dual touchpads for fast data entry (two thumbs!). The EZ Touch automatically senses whether you are using it right- or left-handed, and varies its control surface accordingly, conveniently putting virtual controls where your thumb will be.

You know what they say: If you build a better mousetrap . . . -Ken C. Pohlmann