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Gates demos TouchWall computer

Speaking at a Microsoft-sponsored gathering of CEOs, Microsoft's chairman shows off a prototype for large vertical touch screen, sort of a Surface meets video wall.

Microsoft user experience designer Russ Burtner tests out TouchWall ahead of Chairman Bill Gates' Wednesday keynote at the CEO Summit. The touch screen, which is approximately 4 feet by 6 feet, is a research prototype.

In his waning days as a full-time employee, Bill Gates is getting a little touchy-feely.

I'm not sure whether Gates is getting more emotional, but he is definitely big on the power of new user interfaces, especially touch-screen devices. On Wednesday, he is set to show off Microsoft's latest prototype, known as TouchWall.

The device to be shown Wednesday is something like a giant Surface unit turned on its side.

TouchWall is one of several multitouch prototypes Microsoft Research has created, in addition to the tabletop unit that Microsoft's Surface group has begun to sell commercially. Among the other devices the company is also reportedly working on is a sphere-shaped device.

Others also have multitouch walls. Multitouch pioneer Jeff Han has begun to sell one, while Hewlett-Packard showed one at last year's "D: All Things Digital" conference.

Han's unit was offered for $100,000 in Niemen Marcus' luxury holiday catalog last year, and CNN is using one in its election coverage.

Gates' demo comes as part of the company's CEO summit, an annual gathering of business leaders that runs through Thursday at Microsoft headquarters in Redmond, Wash.

A Microsoft representative declined to offer any details about whether or when TouchWall might be available commercially. The device is not being developed by the Surface unit, but rather is a collaboration between Microsoft Research and the company's newly formed Office Labs unit.