Touch interfaces don’t always have to look like the iPad, or your smart phone, for that matter. That’s one of the lessons I took away from Sunday night’s CES Unveiled event, where dozens of companies showed off their gadgets and gizmos. At the press event, two things in particular caught my eye:

Think big: 3M shows off 84” multitouch table

3M showed off the prototype of a 84” multitouch table, which ran an app developed for a science museum, allowing users to manipulate objects and reveal information about them. I was told that the app actually is used in the wild, albeit on a somewhat smaller table. The one shown at CES Unveiled allowed around 40 simultaneous touch points, but 3M wants to get that number up to 100 to comfortably allow up to 10 people to play with the table.
3M has been working on these touch interfaces for some time, and a spokesperson told me that there is significant interest from museums, retailers and even casinos. However, it’s rather unlikely that you’ll get to take one of these home anytime soon: I was told that the 4K LG display used for the 84” table alone costs around $12,000.

Think round: Sphero goes for a hands-on approach

Sphero, the Bluetooth-connected ball that you can remotely control with your cellphone or tablet, is getting a whole lot more interesting: The Colorado-based startup showed off a bunch of new games, including an augmented reality application that lets you throw cupcakes at game characters in your living room.
Sphero lets you use its Bluetooth-connected ball as a gaming remote control.
Sphero lets you use its Bluetooth-connected ball as a gaming remote control.
But what I found really intriguing was that a Sphero can also double as a gyro remote control. I was shown a game that allows users to run through the streets and fight zombies, all by turning and rolling the Sphero ball in your hand.
Now I know, that’s not technically a tactile interface, but it definitely felt like a very haptic experience to me. And granted, gyro isn’t exactly new, and there are plenty of games that allow you to do the same thing by simply tilting your iPad. But somehow, doing the same thing with the Sphero ball while the display surface stayed flat on whichever surface you had placed it on felt a lot more natural.
Interested in more CES Unveiled discoveries? Then check out my colleague Kevin Tofel’s mobile finds: 2-week fuel-cell; FitBug and Wi-Fi to USB media sharing.