Panasonic is showing off a prototype remote control at the Ceatec exhibition that's designed for future IPTV (Internet Protocol Television) services and uses twin trackpads instead of a keypad for user input.

Designed by Panasonic's San Jose, California, research and development centre, the concept remote resembles a gaming controller, with a couple of buttons in the centre, flanked by a clickable touchpad on two sides.

When a user touches one of the pads, virtual buttons are displayed on the television, along with a cursor designed to look like a finger. Instead of looking down at the remote when choosing a button, users keep their eyes on the screen to select the input they want.

"That's actually better for you than looking down," Jean-Claude Junqua, managing director of the Panasonic San Jose Laboratory, said Ceatec.

The remote can sense when its being held in a right hand or left hand, and will reconfigure the virtual buttons on the fly to make them suit a right-handed or left-handed person.

Besides being used to change TV channels, the remote can be used with other applications. In a demonstration of one such application, a Panasonic executive used the remote's trackpad to flip through a collection of digital photographs.

The remote can also be used in a horizontal orientation, held by two hands with each controlling one of the trackpads. In this orientation, the Panasonic executive demonstrated how a user could manipulate a photo, rotating it and zooming in to see details.

The flexibility of the concept remote is ideal for IPTV, where many potential applications have yet to be developed, Junqua said.