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Microsoft is acquiring Perceptive Pixel, a New York-based company known as a pioneer in multitouch technologies for large displays. Founded by NYU researcher Jeff Han, the company is best known for providing the technology behind CNN’s Magic Wall, the large touch-screen display used by the news network during its election coverage.

It’s part of an effort to get Windows 8 on a variety of screens, from tablets to big displays.

The acquisition was announced by Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer during the company’s Worldwide Partner Conference in Toronto this morning.

At the conference, Han showed one of the company’s 82-inch touch-screen displays running the same version of Windows 8 that will be available on traditional computers. The big display currently sells for around $80,000. Ballmer said Microsoft hopes to get the Perceptive Pixel technology into more businesses and schools as the price comes down.

Financial terms of the acquisition weren’t disclosed. The deal requires regulatory approval.

Technologies from Perceptive Pixel have competed in part with Microsoft’s Surface tabletop computer, which was renamed PixelSense after the company started using the Surface name for recently announced Windows 8 tablet computer.

The announcement is interesting in part because Microsoft has done so much of its own research and product development in the area of large multi-touch displays. Patents and market penetration no doubt played a role. The news release says Perceptive Pixel’s “patented technologies are used across a wide variety of industries such as government, defense, broadcast, energy exploration, engineering and higher education, and its expertise in both software and hardware will contribute to success in broad scenarios such as collaboration, meetings and presentations.”

Han says in the release, “By joining Microsoft, we will be able to take advantage of the tremendous momentum of the Microsoft Office Division, tightly interoperate with its products, and deliver this technology to a very broad set of customers.”

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