01/10/2012 11:56 pm ET

EXODesk By EXOPC: Coolest Gadget At CES 2012? (VIDEO)

LAS VEGAS -- The EXODesk by EXOPC is one of those new devices that even an impartial tech journalist can't help but be excited about. At an electronics show often defined by how companies compete in the same space -- think the many PC-makers releasing Ultrabooks, or the hordes of iPhone case companies that pack the halls here at the Consumer Electronics Show -- the ExoPC is a true original, a device that has no real peers.

When we first wrote about the EXODesk in November, it existed only in a hazy teaser video, which has since been viewed almost 1 million times. But now, the company, in partnership with ViewSonic, is showing off its prototype.

We described the EXODesk as "the desk of the future" back in November, and that's still true. Really, the desk is hard to describe because it fits easily into no category of devices.

Here's how it works.

The EXODesk is a 40-inch touchscreen display that rests flat on the surface of your desk, and hooks up to your Windows or Mac computer. There are two ways to use it. One is to interact with what's on your computer monitor. For example, there is a row of icons on the EXODesk that launch your favorite websites, and there is a virtual keyboard for Microsoft Word. You can also use EXODesk as a giant standalone tablet-like surface. There are apps that exist independently on the touchscreen and do not interact with the computer -- a huge chalkboard for doodling, a full-screen piano for tickling the ivories, and a gigantic pop-up calendar and planner that can keep you organized.

(Scroll down for a brief video demonstration of the EXODesk.)

Options for the apps and functions of the EXODesk are limited for now, mostly because the software is not yet open to developers. Once it is -- and it should be in the coming months, according to EXOPC executives -- developers will be able to design apps that take advantage of the desk. A few possible uses for the EXODesk, according to the Canadian team behind the device: a full-screen children's storybook; a multi-touch gaming device (I'm thinking "Angry Birds" and "Pong" would both look great on this thing); and interactive school textbooks that would allow for scribbling digital notes in the margins.

One reason the EXODesk is so exciting is the projected price range, from $1,000 to $1,500. If there is a comparable gadget out there, it is perhaps Microsoft's Surface, a much larger touchscreen tabletop that retails for almost $9,000. ViewSonic and EXOPC are attacking a much more mainstream consumer -- parents with young kids, architects and designers, everyday users looking for a unique way to organize and control their computers -- in this much lower price range. The ExoPC is already an attractive, albeit expensive, toy in the low $1,000s. When mainstream apps begin to arrive, it could become a legitimate, indispensable accessory for the multi-tasker.

There is no firm release date for the EXODesk, but it will likely land in the United States sometime in 2012, after developers have had a chance to create apps that will enhance the experience.

Watch a demo of ViewSonic's prototype EXODesk:

Below, check out a few more photos of the EXODESK in action at CES 2012, including a few ideas for the future:


Visit our CES 2012 big news page for more from the Las Vegas conference as it unfolds.