Microsoft surfaces with new technology

30 May 2007

Microsoft has launched a brand new product category, known as surface computing, which it claimed will “break down traditional barriers between people and technology”, at the Wall Street Journal‘s All Things Digital conference in California today.

Surface computing involves the ability to turn a surface into a dynamic, interactive interface. User interaction does not have to be through a keyboard or mouse but rather using a multitude of objects like a pen or even a cup or using fingertips.

Microsoft gave examples of the retail possibilities for this new technology. In the restaurant business, for example, if a customer leaves their wine glass down on a surface they would be provided with a list of recommended wines, food pairings or pictures of the vineyard it came from.

Steve Ballmer, CEO of Microsoft, said: “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 vision.”

The four chief attributes of surface computing include direct interaction, where the user can access information directly using touch or gesture rather than traditional input methods like the keyboard.

Multi-touch and multi-user means that the surface will recognise several touch inputs from several different users at once while the surface will also have object recognition so the placement of an object triggers a certain action such as data transfer.

Already four US companies have signed up to try this out, including Harrah’s Entertainment, Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide and T-Mobile USA.

Pete Thompson, general manager of Microsoft Surface Computing, said: “Consumers now have an entirely new way to get the information they need, turning their everyday tasks into enjoyable and engaging experiences.

“There are hundreds of thousands of restaurants, hotels and retail locations that are looking to give their customers the unique and memorable experiences that surface computing will provide.”

By Marie Boran