While touch-capable furniture has been discussed for years, a host of new products released this month may be the first generation to actually enter our homes.

As a Brisbane Web Designer I’ve been following the fabled touch-capable table for years, but the technology hadn’t quite reached the point where it could actually be marketed to most web designers, let alone the general public- especially considering the $10,000 + price tag. But all that is changing.

Earlier this month Microsft and Samsung released the latest edition of their joint project, the touch-capable table the ‘Surface’ SUR40 edition. The Surface has been around since 2007, however the latest edition is a much more usable device. The specs are pretty impressive: 1GB of memory dedicated entirely to graphics, 40-inch 50-point multitouch screen with a 1080×1920 resolution, AMD processors, a 4-inch profile, and a host of USB/HDMI ports. The only problem, the near $9000 price tag.

There are of course already a number of web design companies scrambling to create Surface-friend apps, such as the Absolut Vodka ‘Absolut Mixer’. The app lets you be the DJ, and offers different mixed drinks based on the music you’re playing, while I’m not sure that we’ll see it popping up in venues any time soon, it wouldn’t be bad for a house party. Retailers are also making quick use of the Surface, FujiFilm in Australia is using the table as a photo book making instrument. Customers come in, plug their SD card/ flash drive/ etc, then drag and drop their photos onto a virtual book, where they can arrange the photos physically on the pages, and then the store simply prints the book.

Following on the heels of the Surface release, Sweden’s Flatfrog has released their own touch-capable table, and at a substantial discount. The display itself is a 1080p 32″ one, and it’s just 55mm thick, good for embedding, and can handle dozens of touches at once. It is only a touch-table however, not a whole platform like the Surface, so it needs to be hooked up to a Windows 7 machine to give it signal and input.

FlatFrog Multitouch 3200 teaser from FlatFrog on Vimeo.

These kinds of touch-capable tables open up a world of possibilities for web designers and companies, especially online retailers. Imagine the added value that could be added to scrapbooking sites like Pinterest, or online fashion retails such as Etsy or ASOS, where women could browse online over coffee. Not to mention grocery stores- imagine ordering more cereal online on the breakfast table- a web designers dream.

In a similar and perhaps stranger vein, the city of London has begun installing its new ‘Smart Bin’s. The bins are being installed all across the city and have two huge LCD screens on either side. The city has currently installed 25 bins and aims to install another 75 before the opening of the 2012 Olympic Games. The screens will display news from the Economist and stock quotes, they will be WiFi-equipped, and can eventually become hotspots, they can also be used to notify passersby of emergencies immediately. However at $47,000 a pop, and at what we can all assume to be a pretty high risk of being hacked at or smashed, it does seem like a pretty ambitious move. Perhaps that one can be chalked up as Olympic fever.

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