Heard of Microsoft Surface? Sure you have. It's the tech that takes capacitive touch and smears it across a table-like design. While those devices, manufactured by the likes of Samsung, have begun their slow creep into the market, rival companies are hard at work on their own multi-user, widescreen touch solutions. Which is precisely what 3M Touch Systems is showing off today at CES Unveiled. At 46-inches, its prototype Projected Capacitive Technology ups the ante on user input, allowing a theoretical maximum of 60 touch points and up to four split screens. We had a chance to take the table for a test run, so click on past the break to see how it fared.
Gallery | 6 Photos

3M multitouch table




3M Touch Systems has a host of other, smaller-sized models in its touch arsenal, but the 1080p resolution on its 46-inch prototype is indeed the most impressive. Initially split up into four distinct screens, a toggle allows users to swap between dual-screen mode for convenient multi-tasking and a single screen for uninterrupted viewing of applications and content. There's also the ability to press an onscreen button and rotate an isolated screen. To give us a sense of its usefulness, the company pre-loaded the table with a few demos, taking us through a Twitter feed, Food and Drink ordering menu and browser, amongst others.

It's worth repeating that this is only a prototype, so the minor bit of lag we experienced when navigating the display should be eradicated by the time it makes its commercial launch in Q3 2012. Rather than release it straight to the commercial market it's tailor-made for, 3M told us that we could expect to first see it put to use in educational settings -- offering children, parents and teachers kinesthetic learning opportunities. Naturally, the tech will also be making its way into the hands of businesses, as evinced by a smartphone comparison app intended to usher prospective buyers through a carrier's device selection.

Separating this capacitive display tech from rivals is its support for up to 20 distinct touch points, which the company plans to expand to a whopping 60 when it enters final production. It isn't hard to imagine how handy that multi-user support would be in a retail store setting or even a crowded bar. As for the more diminutive members of its lineup, 3M plans to have those displays fully released into the market by March. So, if you're jonesing for your own hands-on with the tech, you'll be able to get a smaller preview early this year.