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
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
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.