CES: Microsoft Surface

Yesterday we visited the Microsoft booth to take a look at the surface computer first hand.

This year Microsoft has no big announcements and the stand is very similar to last year with the exception of having the surface computer to play around with. This was the first time that any of us at Neowin have played on the surface as previously the unit was not functioning correctly and we were unable to see it at the Microsoft Partner Pavilion.

The multi touch side of the surface seemed a little laggy and you couldn't help thinking that it wouldn't be easy to shift the device around. You can't fault the interface though it was futuristic, fun and yet simple for anyone to use.

We managed to play around with the photo application and the friendly Microsoft employee had a camera to take a picture of Josh from WindowsConnected.com. As you can see from the videos we have uploaded it was blisteringly fast and very simple to get the picture onto the device. Anyone without computing knowledge could have achieved this.

I asked the MS rep if this technology was fully patented and he said that Microsoft had tried to patent as much as possible but that some of the multi touch functions weren't Microsoft patented.

Microsoft believes we will see these units in retail stores and restaurants in the course of 2008 and these are the perfect devices to put into the bars at the casinos in Vegas!

Check out the videos below to see some real life experiences with the surface.

Video: Water Demo | Picture Demo | Paint Application

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Cameras!?

I must say, that's pretty shocking. So long as there is a post-processing and filtering involved in the multi-touch hardware interface, there is no way it'll ever be close to lag-free.

This is a nice prototype, but MS will need to find a better hardware implementation because there is no way cross-referencing input from an array of cameras will ever be responsive enough.

This isn't my field of expertise, but I know that better alternatives exist. I'm sure they all have their drawbacks and there is a reason MS is using cameras, but pressure-sensitive pads and other technologies can be adapted to the Surface without the horrid lag effect.

Sure, it's only a couple of milliseconds, but that's a couple of milliseconds too much.

Cool stuff though

The wiimote is a camera, and it works virtually instantly.

It's certainly possible to get the hardware real time, they just haven't done it yet.

Microsoft have been bangin on about this idea for years.

This is not the first time they have shown this wonderfull peace of "new" technology.

Well I was talking about the 3 videos posted in this news article. But the video showing some of the other features is great. Not like you will find them in many restaurants anytime soon. Maybe 10 years from now but thats pushing it.

It's just a natural progressoin of input styles. Pair this with perfect voice recognition and you got a winner in the home market.

that water demo looks like an amazing coffee table of the future.... *drools* god i want one on my coffee table to play movies / music from my pc

Digix said,
I have one too, but I know it cannot do this stuff.

Mine does everything in the 3 posted videos above. Yours is jailbroke right?

Gabe3 said,

Mine does everything in the 3 posted videos above. Yours is jailbroke right?

Can it tell the difference between a brush and a finger for the painting?

Looks cool, wish it wasn't based on cameras, though. The lag isn't good, and it doesn't seem like the most reliable way of detecting touch.

But nonetheless, I'd love one of these for myself. Won't happen for a while, though :P

perfect for bars and casinos in vegas? gee, y'think? they've been in the revolution lounge at the mirage for over a year, now. afaik, it was one of the first places in the world to get them.

Its wonderful, loved the water ripple effect.

but....................


The problem with it is that its a full, good technology without an use.

We have the Answer, but at the moment, theres no question, usually you have a question first.

Find an application for it and great, but no, restaurants and retail stores ARE NOT going to be it.!!!!


Come on MS!!! why the hell do Restaurants and Retail stores need that!!!!

Education facilities and Museums YES!!!!

Find a bloody use for it instead of it being a toy

if you look at the technical release demos when surface was release the videos for some of what they were showing was possible shows many advantages of having it in retail or a restaurant.

you have to be kidding me, there are a million uses for it,

retail, product demos, being able ot look at products from every angle, hell the CES demo bill did of it, browsing through catalogues, the possibilities are endless. want to buy a product but not sure if ya missus will like it, hell stick ya phone on the screen and send. hair cuts, get a photo of you off your phone, and use the software to pick a haircut that works..

restuarant and bars, ordering food, looking through menus ordering drinks, imagine sitting at a bar, u just put your wallet on it and order a drink, it automatically takes your money from your smart card or whatever and a bar person brings you your drink or food..no tryign to yell at a bar person to order a drink and no not getting the right change!!!!

design industry - a hell of a lot of possibiliteis right there

just becasue you cant think of any reasons doesnt mean there isnt any it just means you cant think of any...hell you even came up with 2 pretty decent uses for it yourself...

i think the tech is brilliant and has endless possibilities

Digix said,
if you look at the technical release demos when surface was release the videos for some of what they were showing was possible shows many advantages of having it in retail or a restaurant.

As would a regular touch screen be? If these haven't been adopted there much yet, I don't really see why this product would be?

The only difference I can tell is that this device supports several people/hands touching it at once, but that is also no requirement at e.g. a restaurant or a retail store. So they could have just used the over a decade old touch display technology anyway, and probably far cheaper too because of its age and how common the technology is. Yes, it can also work on any surface, but with the disadvantage of setting it up instead being moved to rigging cameras for the displays and introducing more lag.

You will find over the next few years, the surface computer will find different form factors, new software and applications. I think one day it is entirely plausible to come home and have some sort of wall-mounted surface. This is the starting point for this technology

Antaris said,
You will find over the next few years, the surface computer will find different form factors, new software and applications. I think one day it is entirely plausible to come home and have some sort of wall-mounted surface. This is the starting point for this technology

And I suppose the flying car, the 7-hour work week and the robot maid are due to hit the market any second now, right?
I suppose you could find lots of usefull purposes for a surface computer, but what can it do that a multi-touch screen can't do?

Jugalator said,

As would a regular touch screen be? If these haven't been adopted there much yet, I don't really see why this product would be?

The only difference I can tell is that this device supports several people/hands touching it at once, but that is also no requirement at e.g. a restaurant or a retail store. So they could have just used the over a decade old touch display technology anyway, and probably far cheaper too because of its age and how common the technology is. Yes, it can also work on any surface, but with the disadvantage of setting it up instead being moved to rigging cameras for the displays and introducing more lag.


One of the advantages of it was also that it can recognize different objects placed on it. Any 'regular' touch screen can't do that. That feature was crucial to a lot of the applications demoed.

MioTheGreat said,


One of the advantages of it was also that it can recognize different objects placed on it. Any 'regular' touch screen can't do that. That feature was crucial to a lot of the applications demoed.


That's a gimmick. What does it actually DO?

Croquant said,

That's a gimmick. What does it actually DO?

It recognizes other electronics like MP3 players and cameras so you can transfer media to and from them. It also lets you use objects with 'bump codes' on them as controls. It will be cool to be able to just flick the ring around your coaster on the table and the waitress just brings you a refill of what you already have because the coaster indicated what it was. Other people have created their own surface computing tables and used them for music composition, too.