Microsoft's Surface

Unlike tiny sensors and foldable devices, this form factor focuses on the very big picture: interactive surfaces.

Microsoft is one of the biggest proponents. Its Surface product, which came out in 2007, lets users interact with both digital items and physical objects. Popular Mechanics called it "a coffee table that will change the world." Today, Surface tabletops appear in some Sheraton hotel bars.

One surface catching on in the mainstream is the interactive whiteboards that are now ubiquitous in schools.

Some current experiments sound straight from science fiction. In a test project, grocery store Tesco Homeplus built a virtual mall in a South Korean subway station. Customers simply scanned a QR code under the groceries they wanted and had the items automatically delivered to their homes.

Here in the U.S., Forrester expects retailers and marketers will start using more surface displays this year. Big-name retailers including Macy's and Diesel have already used interactive setups to draw customers into stores.

By Julianne Pepitone @CNNMoneyTech - Last updated March 29 2012: 9:37 AM ET
Join the Conversation
Coolest inventions of 2012

These 5 creations look to be some of this year's most transformative tech products and services.

Most stock quote data provided by BATS. Market indices are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer.

Morningstar: © 2015 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Factset: FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2015. All rights reserved.

Chicago Mercantile Association: Certain market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved.

Dow Jones: The Dow Jones branded indices are proprietary to and are calculated, distributed and marketed by DJI Opco, a subsidiary of S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC and have been licensed for use to S&P Opco, LLC and CNN. Standard & Poor's and S&P are registered trademarks of Standard & Poor’s Financial Services LLC and Dow Jones is a registered trademark of Dow Jones Trademark Holdings LLC. All content of the Dow Jones branded indices © S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC 2015 and/or its affiliates.