Computer Screen Coffee Table: Microsoft Surface

By: Matt Markovich
By: Matt Markovich

Microsoft took the wraps of a new computing system on May 30, 2007. It’s called Microsoft Surface.

You’ll start to see it in some hotels and stores near the end of the year and it’s as easy as lifting a finger.

Imagine melding a coffee table with a computer screen. There’s no mouse, no keyboard - just your fingers. If your fingers can do it, you can do it.

“We believe that this is truly a new computing experience,” said Tom Gibbons of Microsoft.

Because not only does the surface respond to your fingertips, it can read objects that have Wi-Fi, Bluetooth or are tagged with electronic identification like credit cards.

“I’m in a Sheraton. I can take my room key or my Sheraton Preferred - just throw it down on the surface. It instantly knows who I am. It sees that I have 5,500 points in my account,” demonstrator, Jeffrey Gattis said.

Let’s say you want to buy music for your portable Zune. Use your finger to instantly upload that song. It’s all done without wires.

“I just take it and drag it right across to my Zune,” Gattis explained.

Take a picture - the table recognizes the Wi-Fi equipped camera and downloads the picture instantly. Enlarge with a just a stretch. It’s even able to do it with live video.

As part of my demo, Microsoft created a video puzzle to show off the technology that’s under the hood.

“It’s a projection display and that allows us to put a camera system underneath so there’s five cameras strategically placed underneath,” Gibbons explained.

Those five infrared cameras detect what you put on the surface and where you put it.

“So you get this blend of physical objects, virtual objects and the ability to naturally interact with them,” Gibbons said.

The units will roll out in November 2007, at some hotels and retail stores, running $5,000 to $10,000 each. Although you can own one for your home now, you could in the future. That’s if surface computing really becomes as natural as Microsoft wants it to be.


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