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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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RE: I have a hand gesture for MICROSUCKS...
By Alexstarfire on 5/30/2007 9:51:59 AM , Rating: -1
The only really "polished" products came from Microsoft over a decade ago. They have this nifty site, which I wish I could remember, that debunks a lot of myths about technology and companies. It includes Microsoft, Apple, and others.

Also, what you said about a monopoly is false. All you have to do is look at your local electric supplier. They are a government controlled monopoly. It was done that way for a reason. That way we wouldn't need like 20 different power lines from each company that would supply electricity. By your logic that wouldn't be a monopoly since they aren't trying to get to other industries.

Microsoft may not be a monopoly so to speak, but you can't deny that you really don't have a choice when it comes to certain programs, games for instance. Microsoft will only remain on top as long as everything is programmed for the Windows platform. The programs dominate which OS gets chosen. I guarantee you that if you switched the programs on Mac OS and Windows that Apple would be in control right now and not Microsoft.

Anyways, back to the topic. I don't see this as revolutionary, but more evolutionary. Eventually multi-input touch screens would come along. Other than that feature Microsoft made a giant touch-screen. Whoopty doo. What's so revolutionary about making a giant touch-screen, other than the afore mentioned multi-input feature. Microsoft didn't make, or invent, either AFAIK.

The product is interesting, for certain, but not revolutionary in the least bit.


RE: I have a hand gesture for MICROSUCKS...
By Treckin on 5/30/2007 10:34:50 AM , Rating: 3
if you read my post you would understand that that is the only way for the market to evolve. If it wasnt MS it would have been apple or linux or anyone else. Computers need a common base for developers to code from.
That seems really simple, but I suppose that its easer to just hate the company that made things like standardized computing possible


RE: I have a hand gesture for MICROSUCKS...
By Alexstarfire on 5/30/07, Rating: -1
By TomZ on 5/30/2007 9:11:57 PM , Rating: 3
You don't understand the meaning of "standard" - the term doesn't mean "runs on all platforms." Think more like "de facto standard."

The point that the OP is making, that you are in denial of, is a person working in an office can send a Word document to anyone else working in an office, and the recipient can immediately use that document. In other areas where 12 different standards exist for something, you don't have that benefit. Same goes for an Excel document, Power Point presentation, PDF (obviously non-MS), etc.

These types of standards, and convergence upon a single format, are genuinely useful, even if they didn't come from an ISO committee.


By arazok on 5/30/2007 8:15:54 PM , Rating: 3
Agreed. People don't seem to grasp the market demands for a dominat OS. The advantages (interoprability etc) far outweigh the cons (security, etc).

Considering it's in a monopoly position, MS has been exceptionaly good at improving it's products and offering support. You get regular and free updates to all it's products, and if you can show me any other company that offers anything as open, rich and usefull as MSDN library I'd be amazed. They have no obligation to offer any of this.

It's not to say MS is a perfect company, but considering who and what they are, they certanly deserve to be the market leader IMO.


RE: I have a hand gesture for MICROSUCKS...
By blaster5k on 5/30/2007 11:18:37 AM , Rating: 4
I never said Microsoft didn't have a monopoly. They have several -- operating system, word processing, spreadsheets, etc. I'm not arguing that certain utilities and telecoms are not also granted monopolies by government -- they are. I was merely stating that having a monopoly is not a violation of anti-trust law. The purpose of that law is to prevent companies from leveraging a monopoly in one area to gain a monopoly in another area. My argument was that Windows did not take off because of any such violations.

I'd dispute the lack of polish from Microsoft products. For example, I think the new version of Media Player is finally better than iTunes. I think Microsoft is very much an evolutionary kind of company. They take things and make them integrate well and polish them up. Apple is basically the same way. Most big companies are. They buy into new, promising areas, then refine.


RE: I have a hand gesture for MICROSUCKS...
By Treckin on 5/30/2007 11:59:19 AM , Rating: 2
ummmm. You are half correct. Having more than a monopoly is not intrinsically illeagle. Its anti-competitive business practices that are illegal.

Ex - If I own the only company that offers an in-home tire recyclers (for lack of a better example), I have 100% market share for that market. However, if no other company has attempted to enter that market, then its a non-issue. However, if other companies have attempted to offer a similar product and I buy them out, I am actively trying to maintain the monopolistic environment in the 'in home tire disposal' market.


By bkm32 on 5/30/2007 1:28:46 PM , Rating: 2
I agree wtih your assessments of MS; however, it seems many ppl have missed the point of this article and bit the flamebait of a couple of posters that have entirely missed the boat, here.

MS wasn't the first company to "invent" this technology, but they (along with Apple and Samsung) are applying it in useful (and money-making) ways. There's nothing wrong with that.

BTW, Thomas Edison invoked many of the same tactics as MS in his war against AC power-inventor Nikola Tesla. Mr. Edison is considered one the greatest inventors of all time, an American hero, and icon.

I personally don't understand the "hatred" for a company, unless their actions specifically targeted another in a very personal way. For example, look at the case where Windows Vista killed several pods of bottle-nosed dolphins. Everyone loves dolphins (especially bottle-nosed ones). Why would Vista do such a thing? Oh the humanity!

Seriously, get over it ppl! If you don't like Windows, then speak with your wallet. PC users did when they stopped buying Macs in the 80s and 90s. Doh!

Now, back to the technology at hand--IMHO, this is the next step in the evolution of the user interface. By merging the hardware I/O device with the GUI and speech recognition S/W, MS and many others are enabling the computer to be of better, easier use to more and more ppl. Remember, the computer is a tool that's best used in-conjuction with inventing other tools such as, the Internet, weather simulations (you know that Global Warming thing is gonna really suck), the flying car, etc.

Keep in mind, the modern-day hammer was once a huge innovation in home construction tools. We'd be real salty if it stayed just a rock tied to a wooden stick.

Long story short, enjoy the new innovations, leave the bashing at home in your bathroom where it belongs (comment directed at those who prefer to bash MS, Sony, Nintendo, or anyone else who's had a better idea than the basher).


RE: I have a hand gesture for MICROSUCKS...
By air4ce on 5/30/2007 1:36:13 PM , Rating: 2
This thing was originaly intended for STARTCRAFT II & COMMAND n CONQUER.


RE: I have a hand gesture for MICROSUCKS...
By bkm32 on 5/30/2007 2:39:23 PM , Rating: 2
Great post! Even greater idea!

This is perfect for the RTS market. Moreover, this concept works just as well for actual military strategic and tactical planning say, for instance, in a Naval carrier group or a mobile C2 platform for SWAT and aircraft security.

The military/security possibilities are endless.


By Computermonger on 5/30/2007 4:28:44 PM , Rating: 3
And the funding in the military sector is practical endless also...


By bubbacub616 on 5/30/2007 4:19:16 PM , Rating: 2
alexstarfire, this isn't just a 30 inch telly with a touchscreen. there is a camera (or something like it) underneath which uses visual algorithms to identify patterns/objects.

Don't know if you watched the video but I haven't ever heard of a working demonstration of a machine vision based gui till today - in that respect its revolutionary


"There is a single light of science, and to brighten it anywhere is to brighten it everywhere." -- Isaac Asimov

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