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Microsoft Surface: multi-user touch table

updated 12:10 am EDT, Wed May 30, 2007

Surface: touch table

Microsoft has officially debuted "Surface," a new umbrella brand for computers that can recognize physical objects (via barcode scanning) and react to human touch. Eschewing mice and keyboards, the first Surface platform uses a 30" table-like screen that is meant for simultaneous multi-user input. "From digital finger painting to a virtual concierge, Surface brings natural interaction to the digital world in a new and exciting way," said Microsoft.

The first Surface units are geared primarily for the service industry, offering diners and bar-goers the ability to order items and control in-table entertainment via the touchscreen. For instance, using barcode recognition, a customer could place a bottle of wine of the table and instantly be appropriately charged for it. Or, taking a page from Apple's iPhone playbook, Microsoft says "Imagine quickly browsing through music and dragging favorite songs onto a personal playlist by moving a finger across the screen. "

Like the iPhone's "MultiTouch" technology (which Steve Jobs emphatically noted was patented during his keynote address at Macworld San Francisco earlier this year), Microsoft's Surface can recognize multiple points of input simultaneously. In fact, Microsoft is also calling this capability "Multi-touch."

Among the companies already signed up to make use of Surface are T-Mobile USA, which will use the technology in retail locations to scan and retrieve product and rate plan information; Sherwood Hotels will use Surface in its lobbies, primarily for listening to music, "sending photos home" and "ordering books,"; while Harrah's Entertainment (owner of Caesar's Palace and other Las Vegas properties) will offer Surface users the ability to order show tickets, "reserve spa treatment" and more.

In a company-provided Q&A session, Microsoft's Productivity and Extended Consumer Experiences Group VP Tom Gibbons said "Surface computing is going to revolutionize everyday lives, much like the way ATMs changed how we get money from the bank. Surface lets us manipulate a tremendous amount of information with our hands so that the content works with you rather than for you. For example, with Surface's mapping application, you can manipulate a map and move it, shrink it and access personalized data for local sites, attractions and venues. To do this today, you'd need a paper map, books, concierge and even a bookstore to find and gather all the information. Or, with Surface's photo application, you have the ability to sort through pictures, decide which ones you want to share, zoom in for a closer look and more. In these ways, Surface is unlocking content; making it rich, more fun and easier to use."

Gibbons also hinted at some future applications for Surface, which sound visually fascinating if not terribly useful. "Future versions of Surface will incorporate a myriad of device-sync capabilities. For instance, users could set a digital camera or mobile phone on the surface and watch as their pictures spill out across the table."




by MacNN Staff

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Comments

  1. l008com

    Joined: Dec 1969

    -1

    um

    So they have a touch screen gui using probably trademarked apple gestures. Isn't this not so new? and isn't this not mac news.

  1. Simon

    Joined: Dec 1969

    -1

    coincidence

    I find it a mildly amusing coincidence that a few months after Apple announced a revolutionary new device using MultiTouch capabilities, MS announces one of its own.

    Obviously the devices and possibly even the gestures are different. Nevertheless, once again MS will appear as the lethargic dinosaur that copied from a smaller, but far more innovative competitor. :-D

  1. Inkling

    Joined: Dec 1969

    -1

    Irritating ads

    Why do you have these irritating, animated ads? The one on my screen now has waving (smelly) feet and a Monty Python-like mouth moving in the face of a guy who looks like he escaped from the cast of "The Night of the Living Dead." What kind of business thinks that's an effective ad?

    All such ads do is irritate. Network Solutions is never going to be my network solution.

  1. LouZer

    Joined: Dec 1969

    -1

    Re: irritating ads

    Do what I do. If you use Safari, get PithHelmet. For Firefox, get AdBlock. Then don't be bothered with most of these ads ever again...

  1. mmmdoughnuts

    Joined: Dec 1969

    -1

    PithHelmet!

    Oh, my what a great suggestion. An honest thank you to you...

  1. mmmdoughnuts

    Joined: Dec 1969

    -1

    re: coincidence

    Yes, but apple made multitouch available to everyone and it fits in your pocket.

    M$'s device still requires a table. All of this technology is not new. Wireless syncing? Touch scree UI? This is just the resurrection of the dead TabletPC platform. I don't know what is new other than the name.

    Although, my father has been clamoring for decades for a desk surface that would be a computer interface so he will be happy. But with all the c*** that gets piled on his wood desk, he would never get to use most of the Surface enabled one. :)

    Anyway, I think it is finally cost effective to think about this.

  1. Zaren

    Joined: Dec 1969

    -1

    re: irritating ads

    Better yet, put the site in /etc/hosts, and you'll never have to worry about your blocking software not working:

    ... 127.0.0.1 www.burstnet.com 127.0.0.1 ad.doubleclick.net ...

    You have to restart a process after making changes, but I forget which one. Google will know.

  1. Rezzz

    Joined: Dec 1969

    -1

    i saw this..

    i saw this demo'ed on the news this morning. it is very cool. they are thinking of marketing it to restaurants initially. as usual, ms is going after business first.

    one strange thing. the interviewer said it would be available for retail in october. then immediately followed that by saying it would be unavailable for 4 years. odd.

  1. jarod

    Joined: Dec 1969

    -1

    Garbage

    Made by the kings of s***.

  1. hayesk

    Joined: Dec 1969

    -1

    Re: irritating ads

    sure, block all the ads and then will you complain when MacNN charges you for access? Ads pay for the sites.

    Ads are irritating yes, but as long as they don't make noise and don't intrude on the content area, they're ok with me.

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