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Microsoft Surface

Browsing through images is a breeze with Surface

"You mind if I have some of your tasty beverage to wash this down?"

Image manipulation is just a fingertip away
Surface takes user involvement with digital media to the next level

Microsoft is looking to today make the same breakthrough in interface technology with "Surface" that the mouse did back in the 1980s. Surface, which will be demonstrated today at the Wall Street Journal’s D: All Things Digital conference, provides instant interaction between people and digital content using hand gestures on a touch screen.

"With Surface, we are creating more intuitive ways for people to interact with technology," said Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. "We see this as a multibillion dollar category, and we envision a time when surface computing technologies will be pervasive, from tabletops and counters to the hallway mirror. Surface is the first step in realizing that vision."

In its current form, Surface is incorporated into a 30" display mounted into a table. This allows user involvement to expand beyond just one person. Surface is capable of recognizing input from not just one finger, but up to dozens of inputs simultaneously.

This technology isn’t exactly new as Apple uses a less complex version on its iPhone and “multi-touch” technology was demonstrated by Jeff Han to much fanfare last year. Microsoft, however, is bringing multi-touch to the masses.

Users can perform tasks such as browsing through pictures and music files by simply using their fingers. For users operating Surface in restaurants, a simple touch of the screen could allow you to order a beverage during a meal.

Surface also has the ability to read bar codes on items to provide further information to the user. "This means that when a customer simply sets a wine glass on the surface of a table, a restaurant could provide them with information about the wine they’re ordering, pictures of the vineyard it came from and suggested food pairings tailored to that evening’s menu," said Microsoft. "The experience could become completely immersive, letting users access information on the wine-growing region and even look at recommended hotels and plan a trip without leaving the table."

Microsoft also notes that the transfer of digital content is also possible with Surface. So it's not too hard to envision being able to set your Zune on Surface and transfer your playlist or video files for playback on the 30" display.

Surface will first be available at Harrah’s Entertainment properties, Sheraton Hotels & Resorts and T-Mobile retail stores.

"When visitors to Las Vegas choose to stay at one of our casinos, they can enjoy the amenities at all of them," said Harrah senior VP Tim Stanley. "Microsoft Surface is a great way to help our guests get the most out of their trips to Las Vegas by putting all the offerings and experiences we make available at their fingertips."

"We are creating new and engaging ways for our guests to connect with their passions while away from home. Microsoft Surface puts us at the forefront of technology and allows guests to interact with each other and our hotel in a revolutionary way," said Hoyt H. Harper II, senior vice president for Sheraton.

You can view a demo of Surface in action here (WMV).

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One problem is still there
By subhajit on 5/30/2007 12:50:47 AM , Rating: 3
The biggest issue with touchscreen technology is text input. Unfortunately, for writing large documents and letters, on screen keyboard is not efficient. The only solution I see is a revolutionary voice recognition system.

RE: One problem is still there
By subhajit on 5/30/2007 12:53:08 AM , Rating: 2
I guess that should be speech recognition not voice recognition.

RE: One problem is still there
By jacarte8 on 5/30/07, Rating: 0
RE: One problem is still there
By MobileZone on 5/31/2007 1:31:24 AM , Rating: 2
Thinking that a keyboard could be a problem for such product is like thinking that mouses are missing in mobile phones. Wake up people, this stuff is not intended to type a book on it, this is all about fun, collaboration, entertainment.

Hey, what if could be possible to put a coffee mug on it and the surface could detect it as a coffee object above it and:

1) control the coffee machine wirelessly and automatically for more coffee ready up to be served?

or 2) give hyper-links to the subject (ex. wikipedia)

Or (even better) if you could put your Zune on it and it could detect it as a zune, open the music folder and sync everything wirelessly (Now I see why MS decided to put Wi-Fi in it's player).

I know that it can be used with fingers, but, will it detect objects sitting on it as well? The video demo showed some game blocks on it with illumination coming from the top. I wonder that...

RE: One problem is still there
By Brandon Hill on 5/30/2007 12:53:22 AM , Rating: 5
Microsoft has already demoed a version with a "revolutionary voice recognition system"

RE: One problem is still there
By subhajit on 5/30/2007 1:20:22 AM , Rating: 2
Thanks for the link. That was awesome.

RE: One problem is still there
By thartist on 5/30/2007 3:54:28 PM , Rating: 2
I'll tell you something more exciting: microsoft has promessed, demoed and published almost EVERYTHING under the adjective of "revolutionary" ;)

RE: One problem is still there
By TomZ on 5/30/2007 5:10:06 PM , Rating: 2
It's called "marketing" and most good companies do it.

RE: One problem is still there
By ZmaxDP on 5/30/2007 5:33:44 PM , Rating: 2
I think you may have inadvertently coined a new term:

"promessed" - to professionally screw something up

I like it, and in some cases it even fits with Microsoft rather well. But then again, it's easy to "promess" something up if you are expected to simultaneously innovate and work with every existing piece of junk hardware device on the planet...

And on the side, Firefox has a built in spell check function, so you might try using it as your browser of choice for forum hopping. Though in this case, I rather like the results of spelling carelessness.

RE: One problem is still there
By thartist on 5/31/2007 6:04:25 PM , Rating: 2
To start, English is not my first language and yeh, "promised" was the right word. "Promessed" would be a little "mylanguagecized" variation ;)

Else, f*ck you miss Spelling, you think you are cool at bashing me for a misspell... I don't use FF by the way, i prefer Opera. Fortunately i can speak english with barely an error from a long time to a long time.

Final, promessed could be well used to name MS's practice.

RE: One problem is still there
By chick0n on 6/5/07, Rating: -1
RE: One problem is still there
By GaryJohnson on 5/30/2007 3:20:05 AM , Rating: 2
In my limited experience with touch screens, the biggest problem I've noticed is that they tend get all smudged up with finger prints.

RE: One problem is still there
By spluurfg on 5/30/2007 5:23:54 AM , Rating: 2
I think touch screen had come a long way -- considering the size of the display, an on screen keyboard should be sufficient for general use (this stuff probably isn't aimed at the word processor market). I played with an on screen keyboard on a Sony Ericsson M600 phone and was able to type acceptably with my fingertips, not the stylus. They could even use the touchscreen feedback technology that's on the upcoming Samsung smartphone:

RE: One problem is still there
By GoodBytes on 5/30/2007 9:09:22 AM , Rating: 2
How about a touch screen keyboard that scales and that can rotate on the screen of this device?!
Easy to make, works great, and because its scalable it can fit any size of keys you want, so you can't complain it's not comfortable. ;)

RE: One problem is still there
By Justin Case on 5/30/2007 4:29:45 PM , Rating: 1
Ever tried using a flat membrane keyboard? It's not comfortable. On top of that, touch screens usually can't react to "keypresses" fast enough for a moderately good typist, and can't read multiple simultaneous keypresses (ex., Ctrl+Alt+Del - this is a Microsoft product, after all).

RE: One problem is still there
By TomZ on 5/30/2007 5:11:08 PM , Rating: 2
From the article:
Surface is capable of recognizing input from not just one finger, but multiple up to dozens of inputs simultaneously.

RE: One problem is still there
By Justin Case on 5/31/2007 4:55:09 PM , Rating: 2
From what I've read, it "can recognize up to 52 things touching the table", but it's not very clear if it can respond to fast sequential keypresses (will it read them in the right order and as non-simultaneous?). Any links to a video showing that?

Either way, typing on a flat surface isn't very comfortable, so I don't see this replacing keyboards in the near future.

RE: One problem is still there
By peritusONE on 5/30/2007 2:49:48 PM , Rating: 2
The biggest issue with touchscreen technology is text input. Unfortunately, for writing large documents and letters, on screen keyboard is not efficient.

I don't think this is quite aimed at the author types. Nobody said this was being unveiled as an expensive Word editor. Keyboards aren't going anywhere.

RE: One problem is still there
By TomZ on 5/30/2007 5:13:10 PM , Rating: 1
Replacing keyboards with touchscreens would be stupid. Touchscreens will be used for gestures, e.g., moving or resizing a document, and speech recognition will be used for text entry. Speech recognition is faster, more accurate, and requires less effort than typing on a keyboard or touchscreen.

By SiliconAddict on 5/31/2007 2:25:30 AM , Rating: 2
Faster? In most cases. Less effort? Sure. More accurate? Maybe in 10 years. It still is pretty damn twitchy depending on the person, the environment you are in, and what needs to be said.

By SiliconAddict on 5/31/2007 2:23:30 AM , Rating: 2
These things seem to be geared towards data manipulation not input. Or if there is input its more of a one shot deal. (Read: Photos\credit cards\music\etc.)

That being said quick notes would problably work perfectly fine on this thing as long as you have good handwriting recognition built into the thing.

Damn wouldn't that be cool. The front of your frig you scribble notes down and then drag it around to X, Y, or Z family member's personal area.

"Well, there may be a reason why they call them 'Mac' trucks! Windows machines will not be trucks." -- Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer
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