First Look: Microsoft Surface Computing

Channel 10 has revealed the Microsoft Surface Computer, a fully functioning multi-touch computing system – a project which started four years ago and will be launched later this year. "Surface computers will start with Microsoft partners getting first shot at various public applications, you'll most likely see them in action in Las Vegas first. Eventually prices will come down and production will go up and I expect we'll all be waving through our playlists on our coffee table before we know it," according to Channel 10's Larry Larsen.

In the video, Mark Bolger, Director of Marketing Surface Computing, explains to Larry Larsen what surface computing is all about. The computer is comprised of a Vista-based system, multiple cameras using infrared light and a DLP projector. "We're looking at Microsoft's first surface computer. We're excited that we're going to make an announcement for this product on May 30th, at the Wallstreet's Journal D-conference. What we're going to be doing is announcing that this product will be available later this year in commercial partners that we have lined up. Specifically, we'll going to be going into hotels, retailers, entertainment venues, such as casino resorts."

Bolger then demonstrates how he and Larsen can use a program called Paint (not to be confused with Windows' MS Paint) with their hands in a multi-touch and multi-user environment. He then grabs two typical paint brushes and shows Larsen how the computer system detects different pressure and widths of the paint brush. He also shows how tagged objects with a dotted pattern can be used, more than once, to bring up a specific image (motionless or animated) on the table-screen.

Bolger then goes on to show an application from one of Microsoft's partners, T-mobile. When he places a phone on the surface the computer instantly recognizes it and starts spewing out images and information about the device. "What we're doing is we're blending the physical and virtual worlds together into one vibrant experience on a tabletop," he announces. When another phone is placed onto the table, the screen changes to compare the two devices in the space between them. Bolger physically moves them apart, giving the information displayed more space. Once the user chooses a phone, they can browse through possible plans, compare them, compare texting plans, check coverage areas, play a ringtone and add everything, by dragging and dropping, to the final invoice.

The tabletop computer can even help out your typical waiter. Bolger demonstrates how to browse through possible items for your order, whether you're doing it for the first time or if you've been at the restaurant before, using a card to bring up your past orders. Once a meal arrives, tagged cutlery can allow for further interaction with the table, whether it is an advertisement or a game to keep the kids busy. Once it comes time to pay the bill, if you wish to use multiple payment methods, just place them on the table divide the items accordingly. A tip calculator is also included.

Using yet another loyalty card, your associated online photos or videos from different online servers will appear on the screen. You can then take the content, view it, manipulate it and zoom in or out. Using a wi-fi camera, taking a picture, placing it on the tabletop, manipulating the photo with templates, turning it into a postcard, writing a quick message and sending it off using the online service from the original loyalty card, is all very easily done. Bolger then shows off how to use the tabletop as your tour guide, when entering a resort for example. Bolger shows how a map pops up and allows you to make reservations, purchase tickets and essentially plan out your day.

In terms of the music experience, the tabletop can be used to choose a specific song or album and place it in a queue or, throw it on your Zune via Wi-Fi. The same goes for sharing songs between two Zunes - the experience becomes a physical (virtual) reality. After carefully putting the Zunes away, Bolger demonstrates a video puzzle with glass blocks, which is essentially your typical puzzle except that the pieces are parts of a video that is being played back at you, audio and all. Bolger finishes off the demonstration with a calm tone. He shows how the Water program allows anyone (waiting in a lobby for example) to interact with a simple image.

Video: iPod | PSP | WMV | WMV (High) | Zune
View: Press Release
Link: Microsoft Surface
News source: Channel 10

Report a problem with article
Previous Story

Moroccans Cut Off From YouTube

Next Story

Apple Releases iTunes 7.2, Launches iTunes Plus (DRM Free)

120 Comments

Commenting is disabled on this article.

Microsoft Tables New Living Room Offering

Microsoft hopes to have digital coffee tables available to consumers within three to five years. Until then, initial models called "Surface" will be sold to the retail and hospitality markets featuring a Vista-based computer in a shiny black table base with a 30 inch touchscreen and five motion detecting cameras. The initial models will cost US$5000-$10,000 but Microsoft hopes this cost will eventually drop to consumer levels.

Microsoft is working on a limited number of programs to ship with Surface including one for sharing digital photographs and a touch-based paint application. Assuming it has an eBook reader of some sort, that will put a whole new meaning to the concept of a coffee table book.

Visit your local T-Mobile USA store or a property of the Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc. sometime after November to have a look for yourself. Microsoft's new "Surface" computer was demonstrated in Seattle on May 25, 2007.

View: View Image
News source: The Toronto Star

If the system crashes, Can you hit the screen to bring it back up ?
I can see a lot of cracked sites with these screens emerging !!
Anyway, looks finger licking good, porn sites will grow again.

Wow. That's truly amazing.

Hopefully it won't be too terribly expensive and we can see this sort of thing in a laptop one day...

I have posted last night about this here http://www.neowin.net/forum/index.php?showtopic=563998

Microsoft has just announced its Surface Computing technology, a project that has been kept under wraps for five years.

Microsoft's tabletop PC--reach out and touch.

There's no mouse or keyboard needed for Microsoft's new tabletop computer called Milan, which is entirely controlled through touch.

see video here:

http://zdnet.com.com/1606-2_2-6186146.html?tag=nl.e589

I just want to say wooow for this amazin tech.

Wow, that's very cool!! 8)
I can already imagine normal applications (IM software, web browser, image editing, programming etc) running on that.. and a virtua keyboard appearing somewhere on the screen so you can type-in some stuff.

By the way,

Cool site.
Nice logo design.

It's about time MS started getting some pro graphics designers (like me!) onboard. :)

Bravo!

I could definitely see this being useful in the media workplace where you are editing video or compiling presentations. The demos with the pictures and video really show a potential for productivity with this technology.

Whoa!

Best parts are the restaurant demo and the interactivity with the Zune. I think that's awesome, being able to plonk your Zune down on the table and start listening to some tunes. Hell you probably wont have to actually put it on the table for the WiFi to work. Awesome.

Edit: Oh, and plasma pong would be so awesome on that!

I'm sorry people but for a home consumer that's way too much moving around just to get from point A to point B. But for shops and casinos it's a great tech. An inch or two with a mouse and I'm there, so no thanks.

The demo is showing tags being used to identify objects, and the tags are somewhat similar to braille (a pattern of dots). How can the system really distinguish between thousands of different objects? Take that casino loyalty card example. How hard would it be to print out a few dot patterns and get discounts using another person's account?

The object recognition certainly looks cool, but I don't really think that optical recognition would work in this case...

a combination of dots (to recognise what kind of card it is) and RFID signiture (to recognise whose card it is) will probably beused.

That's amazing! The possibilities seem to be infinite! :nuts:
I think it could be useful in a living room to share things with family, but I doubt this can replace the desktop PC.

Well, fortunately for us, if Microsoft really believes in this technology (and I think they do...it's the next step), they have the money to really get it out to the public - quicker than most. :)

Ever since seeing these demo's, over the last few years, I've been really excited at the real possiblity of functional use.

It's a creative user's dream come true.

pretty cool microsoft after all discoverd multi-touch for their purposes, while this is not multitouch, i suppose but yet something very similar looking.

im serious. its looking good. =)

funny thing i see is that some folks here are so enthusiastic about that although that technology is not-so-new and others made it before in a smaller form-factor.

dont get me wrong, no fanboyism here, i just noticed. =)

cheers and peace, everyone! =)

this technology wasn't invented by microsoft. Microsoft's business strategy is into buying the developers or companies and naming it theirs

I think university researcher Jeff Han was the guy who has really put the effort into this as he demonstrated at T.E.D. and has been working on it for years.

who knows he may be working for Microsoft now cause it's very similar to his work.


Here's Jeff video demonstration:

http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/view/id/65

good to see someone has taken it a step further and brought it to production and consumers....

just hope they don't monopolize the technology though.

The main focus of Microsoft, and the main invention, is allowing real objects to interact with the surface, not the multi-touch capabilities. Its unclear whether Microsoft came up themselves with the multi-touch addition or 'stole' it, but given that theyre building a surface that can recognize multiple objects on it at once, its sort of obvious that multi-touch would work in that environment also. Microsoft started brainstorming the concept of an object recognition interface in 2001, according to their timeline, and theyve shown it off frequently in public demos at conferences. The coolest thing about Jeff Han's implementation of multitouch is the applications he developed to show it off.

I'm curious on what you guy think. Will this be a replacement in the short term for our current PCs and Laptops. Or an addition to our current workspace? Eventually this WILL be the future of computing I am very aware of that, increidible techonology Kudos to microsoft. Thank god Mac did'nt come up with this concept before, there will be no debate over who pushed this technology first.

I dont know. Might do good in the commercial space but smartboards do the same type of thing and they havent caught on at all. Especially if its costs tons of money.

Whats the difference between this and a smartboard? This is not exactly new. Its a smartboard that has the stuff projected on it from behind.

It's funny how Microsoft is claiming this to be their "own technology" and "innovation" when this concept (and implementation as well - price so far has been the prohibitive factor rather than technology) is *very old* and many universities have already produced devices as well as UI around it ages ago.

Innovation at its 'finest'.

I think people should try to figure out the timeline. Microsoft's website for Surface indicates they started working on the concepts in 2001. I remember videos of surface-like devices at Microsoft demonstrations years ago. I would like to find out what actually started when. In any case, its very likely that many places, including Microsoft, were working on this at the same time.

brianshapiro said,
In any case, its very likely that many places, including Microsoft, were working on this at the same time.

My guess is that it's been being researched at the University level with many published papers. Microsoft, Apple and other companies read about the work and started researching it themselves. Explains how they all come up with similar ideas around the same time and then everyone fights over who invented it and then the poor professor or graduate student gets totally forgotten about.

Coming next from Apple?....

iTable :laugh:

Link this in with wireless power tables and bingo, its even better. Ive predicted this will be the biggest step in computing for a while now from the moment I saw it, and still believe it will be. Just thinking about more options and possiblities that are available it will become really useful.

Looked a bit useless at first but actually that can be very nice for the right business. I bet it doesn't come cheap though

Great new product from Microsoft, as long as its released it will be awesome. When thinking about Retail stores and the feature on the Zune just been able to transfer music or with the T-Mobile Device been able to transfer packages is fantastic.

It won't be long until we put our iPods down on that screen in Virgin Megastore's and drag and drop Music CDs onto them and pay by card.

Very clever.

Draganta said,
Excellent product. I can't wait till it comes out.

On a side note, I find it funny that they did the images on a MAC. See for yourself. http://www.microsoft.com/surface/ download the Microsoft Suface Logo Set and open the ZIP. There is a .DS_Store file in the ZIP.

So? Microsoft lets their employees use Mac's also... btw its not "MAC" thats an acronym... MS does a lot of Mac development in addition to Windows development... heck the XBOX360 was developed on a Mac, coded on a Mac and games were tested on Mac's originally...

This is nothing new. We've known for a while that Microsoft's marketing team uses Macs. Heck a lot of creative graphics are probably contracted out. No. Big. Deal.

wonder how long till they are sued for pattents?.. There has to be a vague patent out there somewhere that says "using a device with multiple fingers or objects"... you know there has to be someone seems to of patented every vague term by now...

what caught me was the thought of having this at restraurants and not having to deal with servers. orders can be made promptly, splitting bills made easy and tips aswell.

i've just pre-ordered mine. NOT. tis rather amazing, i wonder if it could be developed into a bath lol, always imagined a computer in ya bath.

To those wondering about a use for the home. GAMES!. Imagine being able to play say, Starcraft2 on one of those, no need for a mouse to send troops to the enemy, etc.


We'll have to see the final product and pricing, and API before really getting into it.

Screw starcraft. Think of any traditional board game where you have pieces to move and dice to roll.

This thing can handle all of the "game management" duties -- show the game board, show who's turn it is, what options are available to the player, etc, while still giving players tangible real world items to interact with.

Hell, you could roll the dice and it would be able to determine what the roll came up as, look for "your" piece on the board, and show you what your valid moves are.

I thought it was pretty boring. Nothing more than a fancy touchscreen.

The demo had a bug too.

When his guest was painting in red with his paintbrush, and the host dipped his paintbrush in blue, then they were both painting in blue!


ho hum... yawn...

Peter McGrath said,
I thought it was pretty boring. Nothing more than a fancy touchscreen.

The demo had a bug too.

When his guest was painting in red with his paintbrush, and the host dipped his paintbrush in blue, then they were both painting in blue!


ho hum... yawn...

Good greif its a freaking demo app! its not a real application... get a life if you have to nit pick on such a stupidly small thing.. sheesh... its still way more then anything out there now

when this kinda of technology is implemented and common in public, i will consider it the next jump in technology in my lifetime, i even though some of you may not be very impressed with it, i thinks its a huge development.

To be honest, all it looks like to me is a touchscreen display; the "intelligence" seem to be in the touchscreen software. And I can't really say I have never dragged around objects with my hand on a touchscreen before?

Jugalator said,
To be honest, all it looks like to me is a touchscreen display; the "intelligence" seem to be in the touchscreen software. And I can't really say I have never dragged around objects with my hand on a touchscreen before?

Then you need to look a little bit closer. Aside from the multi-input capabilities, the ability to recognize specific items placed on the surface and even interact with them takes computing to a whole new level.

What do you mean with "recognize items on the surface"? Obviously you have been able to do that with regular touch screen displays too, otherwise you can't interact with them?

What's different with this compared to other touch screens you interact with?

Jugalator said,
What do you mean with "recognize items on the surface"? Obviously you have been able to do that with regular touch screen displays too, otherwise you can't interact with them?

What's different with this compared to other touch screens you interact with?

Other touch screens can't tell the difference between two objects placed on them. This uses cameras to be able to differentiate based on shape, IR reflectivity, etc.

Ooh, I thought you just used your hand and fingers to move around objects on it and thought "huh?" because that's indeed old tech, but sure, if it detects different kinds of objects automatically without having a user need to tell what's applying the pressure, then that could be useful in some applications.

MioTheGreat said,

Other touch screens can't tell the difference between two objects placed on them. This uses cameras to be able to differentiate based on shape, IR reflectivity, etc.


It depends heavily on RFID. Everything he put on the table was tagged with one (all the cards, the glass, etc.). This is really the first great use for RFID for end users even if that's in a commercial application.

QuarterSwede said,

It depends heavily on RFID. Everything he put on the table was tagged with one (all the cards, the glass, etc.). This is really the first great use for RFID for end users even if that's in a commercial application.

The guy in the video said it was NOT RFID.

This could be a big stepping stone for the Zune, If Microsoft can get this into every tech store out there and connect it with the Zune via wireless or w/e, so people would be able to just buy cds at the store just from it. Imagine a whole bunch of rows of just this screens, people would go nuts over this new touch screen technology at the stores.

reidtheweed01 said,
If they develop it enough for home use they would be perfect inside a kitchen countertop or a entertainment room.

Yes. Cutting up steaks on a monitor would be simply divine.

PsychoDoughBoy said,

Yes. Cutting up steaks on a monitor would be simply divine.

You wouldn't cut on it, hell, you wouldn't cut steaks on the countertop itself unless you're lazy and such. Most people own and use cutting boards.

It's rear projection.

First, you don't cut on countertops. If they're hard enough not to get scratched (Which this screen can probably be made to be, since it's just a coated piece of glass with a projector behind it), they're going to damage your knife.

No, not right away. First it'll be available where you will have to pay for services (hotels and such) but I'm sure one day we'll have one. Computers weren't available to the general; public for a few decades, and look where we are now...

I think this is for all the people who say Microsoft isn't Innovative, totally amazing piece of hardware and software, the possiblities of uses for this seems so endless.

Microsoft's R&D is innovative for sure (we've known that). But Microsoft has a tendency to kill great ideas or take a lot of the innovation out of what R&D put on the table (compare Longhorn PDC03 to Vista).

It's great that this is actually going to go into production and be used commercially where it can flourish. This is really the first great commercial use for multi-touch. Just excellent ideas here. I hate to say it but great job Microsoft.

QuarterSwede said,
Microsoft's R&D is innovative for sure (we've known that). But Microsoft has a tendency to kill great ideas or take a lot of the innovation out of what R&D put on the table (compare Longhorn PDC03 to Vista).

It's great that this is actually going to go into production and be used commercially where it can flourish. This is really the first great commercial use for multi-touch. Just excellent ideas here. I hate to say it but great job Microsoft.

I agree that a lot of their R&D projects get killed, but I'd be willing to bet they take a lot of specific parts out of those killed projects and implment them through out other areas of their software.

Saw this surface demo a year ago with the resizing of pictures. I did not know Microsoft was going to develop this to commercial so fast. Dawm I have to upgrade my glass desk to my new surface computer. I need a surface bed too so I can have my porn as well..Hah :P

If I recall properly, it wasn't Microsoft's. It was an university student's HCI project.

In fact, if you search in youtube, you'll find several university projects like this.

iam speechless amazing product :P this is product of the feature and the best i have ever seen !!waiting for the price and products that will come !!! microsoft is going well and in the right direction !! GO microsoft !!!

I wonder if it will be available for homes, and just imagine if you could order food from home like a pizza, or subs and you can go pick it up or have it delivered. That will be cool.

Scutley said,
I wonder if it will be available for homes, and just imagine if you could order food from home like a pizza, or subs and you can go pick it up or have it delivered. That will be cool.

You can already do that.
http://www.pizza73.com/
It's called HTML.

Now now Croquant, if you're going to be picky like that you've got to be reeeally picky... :cheeky:

You mean HTML, Flash (for some "fun" reason), and whatever backend they've got running

This is truly incredible! I bet this interface is going to be the basis for Windows Vienna. Of course that is just a wild guess! Either way, I have to have it! :nuts: lol

As with all new technologies its not intended for the individual consumer. For one its bound to be very pricey, but as years pass and prices fall and manufacturers build on the technology; it will become practical to create applications and devices targeted directly at the consumer.

You have to keep these things in mind. Don't forget, Computers were once not practical and unaffordable for the average consumer, yet today almost every household has one.

Who says Microsoft doesn't innvate?

just finished the video, what i found was that this has no practical uses for people like u and me. however it seems like it could do alot of wonders in the commercial are. im really excited now becuase its really ionnovative and like they said, its gonna come out this year

Imagine that with more advanced tech, "Minority Report" screens are now possible...

Anyway, I already saw that before...
Bill gate have showed it in one of it's speech about future technologies.

He actually presented a more primitive form of this at a presentation at my University back in October 2005. It was cool then and even cooler now :D

-Spenser

Wanderermy: unless you own a casino or a hotel, i don't think you're getting one of these... it's meant as an attraction, MS is moving into the frivolous tech toys business.

stgeorge said,
Wanderermy: MS is moving into the frivolous tech toys business.

yeah and nobody will ever need more than 640k of ram either...

All examples used on the front page are for businesses and public displays, and Microsoft even says so in the announcement, so stgeorge is probably right. As for THIS product at least. However, who knows, a new version more geared for home use might of course be possible.

tommytom02 said,

yeah and nobody will ever need more than 640k of ram either...

That quote was never actually said... check for yourself..

All examples used on the front page are for businesses and public displays, and Microsoft even says so in the announcement, so stgeorge is probably right. As for THIS product at least. However, who knows, a new version more geared for home use might of course be possible.

Not valid. Why? I'll tell you why. The technology is flashy, it looks cool, it has a million possibilites too, not just for business and eye candy. It's simple. You just have to imagine.

Scenario:

I come home from a walk, I had my camera with me, I drop the camera on the coffee table and right away I see the photos I took, I review the photos I like and flick them to the WiFi net basket icon in the upper right corner and the photos are transfered to my portable devices as well as My Pictures folder on the laptop and Media Center.

I walk over to my kitchen island and decide to make a nice dinner. I need some advices with photos and receipes, so I look at the island's surface to see listing of all recipes for the food I took out of the fridge and island has information about, weight and stuff like that.

Samples like this go on and on when you imagine what you can do with the technology in your own house. The possibilities become even more amazing when you do apply this technology to the public spaces, restaurants, stations, bars etc etc.

I don't understand how people can be so shortsighted, I really can't. I guess that's the problem, it's either that people don't WANT to support Microsoft and love Apple products and fancy visuals so much that nothing can ever be made good by other people except Apple themselves. Ridiculous.

I was thinking about that same demo as well.

This demo just opened up a wide range of possibilities we can expect from this technology. Like video puzzles.

rm20010 said,
I was thinking about that same demo as well.

This demo just opened up a wide range of possibilities we can expect from this technology. Like video puzzles. :D

...and something else for those of us with little patience to throw when we're unable to solve it!