Microsoft is now stepping into a new arena: digital furniture. The company plans to unveil a revolutionary computing device called the Microsoft Surface at the Wall Street Journal’s All things Digital conference to be held today.
The Microsoft Surface computing device features a 30-inch screen embedded in an acrylic tabletop. This device will look really sleek as all wires are hidden in the low-slung table’s thick pedestal.
Basically the Microsoft Surface which is the first in a new category of surface computing products from the software giant turns an ordinary tabletop into a vibrant, dynamic surface that provides effortless interaction with all forms of digital content through natural gestures, touch and physical objects.
At a glance, the Microsoft Surface would remind anyone of an old-fashioned arcade game table around which gamers gather to play games. However, the only difference is that this tabletop does not have a joystick, nor a mouse or a keyboard. The device is controlled solely by touching the display.
According to Microsoft, this touch screen will allow people to “interact with digital content the same way they have interacted with everyday items including photos, paintbrushes and music their entire life: with hands, with gestures and by putting real-world objects on the surface.”
For instance, when a digital camera with Wi-Fi capabilities is placed on the display, the table recognizes the camera, and at just a touch of the screen, downloads all photos and video clips stored on the camera. The user can then sort out the digital pictures and even resize them, handling them as they were real physical prints.
And that is not all. The Microsoft Surface display can also read bar codes and identification tags embedded in objects like hotel chain membership cards.
Here are the key features of the Microsoft Surface:
- Direct interaction: Users can actually “grab” digital information with their hands, interacting with content by touch and gesture, without the use of a mouse or keyboard.
- Multi-touch: Surface computing recognizes many points of contact simultaneously, not just from one finger like a typical touch-screen, but up to dozens of items at once.
- Multi-user: The horizontal form factor makes it easy for several people to gather around surface computers together, providing a collaborative, face-to-face computing experience.
- Object recognition: Users can place physical objects on the surface to trigger different types of digital responses, including the transfer of digital content.
The Microsoft Surface display will initially be used on a commercial bases, but the company hopes that this technology will someday make its way and become commonplace in homes as well.
By the end of 2007, Microsoft Surface will appear in hotels, restaurants, retail stores and public entertainment sites, where it will serve as an information kiosk. It will even handle things such as basic customer service.
Steve Ballmer, Microsoft’s chief executive who is scheduled to unveil Microsoft Surface today at a conference said in a statement, “With Surface, we are creating more intuitive ways for people to interact with technology. 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.
Those who are partnering with Microsoft to be amongst the first companies to use Microsoft Surface include Harrah’s Entertainment, Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide and T-Mobile USA. The price of Microsoft Surface has however not been disclosed as yet.
Last month, HP showcased its gadgets and innovations of the future and amongst them was a similar concept called the Coffee Table. The HP Coffee Table which is expected to hot the market several years from now will have 2 LCD screens that work in conjunction with each other to create a 3D atmosphere.