Multi-touch remote controls and keypads coming from Elan

Ever felt that the old fashioned remote control just doesn’t cut it anymore? We've seen an interesting solution from a Taiwanese company, Elan, that is a multi-touch device which can be used as a remote control, a keyboard, and a gamepad. 

Multi-touch is one of the hot topics at the moment in the tech industry (although Apple missed a trick at the WWDC) and if your notebook, smartphone or screen doesn’t feature it, then you’re just not following the latest trends. 

The solution from Elan takes a different approach to things though, as the company is offering up a wide range of solutions based on projected capacitive touch surfaces. It has developed devices that are about the size of a normal remote control for your TV, but features one or two multi-touch zones. 

Some of the remotes also feature round pressure sensitive controllers - about the size of a 10 pence coin. This was demoed to us by using it for playing a third person game. The more pressure applied in any one direction, the faster the character on the screen moves. 

Elan also had some larger touch pads, on which a printed keyboard overlay could be placed, and, once you switched over to keyboard mode, a virtual keyboard would appear on the screen showing you which key you pressed. 

Another possibility is to have static overlays behind the touch surface and then light them up in red, green or blue depending on what task you want to use. In remote control mode, you’d have all the regular buttons lit up in one of the three colours, while changing to game pad mode would light up in a different colour and display the corresponding outlines of a game controller. 

A lot of the remote controller solutions were still prototypes, but we were shown several working solutions. However, Elan also had a keyboard with its multi-touch technology built in. In multi-touch mode you’d have a huge touchpad that you could use for virtually anything you’d want, but with the flick of a switch this would also be your numerical keypad. 

Some other odd solutions included a mouse with a multi-touch surface, although we don’t quite get it - the mouse still had two buttons and a scroll wheel.

Elan is also working on control solutions for smartphones, but, in this case, it’s the pressure sensitive controller rather than the multi-touch suface. 

The company is in talks with several of the big brand home electronics companies to get its technology implemented into their products, but we weren’t given any specifics as to who Elan was working with. It is expecting retail products based on its technology to appear in the market by the end of 2010.