Microsoft’s new Surface gadget should make kiosk-types jumpy

Microsoft just unveiled a new product that is a jumped-up touch-screen computer married to a coffee table.

It costs $10,000 … now … but that should drop big-time if the demand is there, particularly since the guts of the thing probably cost a fifth of that.

This thing is interesting for one key reason: it has Microsoft’s marketing muscle and partnership programs behind it.

There are are other companies like Perceptive Pixel with very slick touch interfaces, and can probably run the things on far less pricey and wobbly operating systems than Vista. But none can announce a product and immediately start dropping the things into Sheraton Hotel lobbies and T-Mobile stores to generate noise and the beginnings of a user base.

So what is it?

Says Microsoft:

How does Surface work?
At a high level, Surface uses cameras to sense objects, hand gestures and touch. This user input is then processed and the result is displayed on the surface using rear projection.

What is surface computing?
Surface computing is a new way of working with computers that moves beyond the traditional mouse-and-keyboard experience. It is a natural user interface that allows people to interact with digital content the same way they have interacted with everyday items such as photos, paintbrushes and music their entire life: with their hands, with gestures and by putting real-world objects on the surface. Surface computing opens up a whole new category of products for users to interact with.

What are the key attributes of surface computing?
Surface computing has four key attributes:
• Direct interaction. Users can actually “grab” digital information with their hands and interact with content by touch and gesture, without the use of a mouse or keyboard.
• Multi-touch contact. Surface computing recognizes many points of contact simultaneously, not just from one finger, as with a typical touch screen, but up to dozens and dozens of items at once.
• Multi-user experience. 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.

This thing is supposed to aimed primarily at consumers and their homes, the idea being this would take the place of a regular coffee table and be, in effect, the main information PC around a home. I have my doubts about that as even teenagers are going to get a sore back leaning over and fiddling with this thing.

Where I see much more application is in retail and public areas, used in the way more conventional touchscreens are used right now. Hold a product up to the screen and, assuming it has an RFID chip or something, it pops an information piece about that product.

In one app, you can plop your cell phone on the screen and the gadget will suck out and display all the images taken by your phone cam (which may not be  good thing).

There is a paintbrush/paint can app that allows you to paint, and you could image how that could be applied to color selections for any number of products.

Microsoft has a video that shows a great application for a bar or lounge, in which plopping a drink on the table generates a related ad. The table also has an interface with the menu for bar and restaurant, meaning you could do things like pre-order your meal and then pay the bill by dropping the credit card down on the table and dragging over the icons of what you ate and drank.

Some guy named Gates was on The Today Show this morning showing it off and Gizmodo has the video.

A lot of possibilities if the costs can be driven down.

In short, companies that make kiosk gear may be loving this, IF they will be able to license the software.

Companies that write kiosk software will not, I suspect, be too thrilled. A lot of them just slipped well behind the curve. 

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3 Comments on “Microsoft’s new Surface gadget should make kiosk-types jumpy”

  1. D Says:

    “This thing is supposed to aimed primarily at consumers and their homes, the idea being this would take the place of a regular coffee table and be, in effect, the main information PC around a home. I have my doubts about that as even teenagers are going to get a sore back leaning over and fiddling with this thing.”

    Hmm… I saw Steve Ballmer yesterday talk about it being mainly geared towards the gaming/casino and retail industry.

  2. screenmedia Says:

    Retail makes the most sense, by far, but there are a lot of references in the PR blabber about using this with family and friends, and changing the form factors so the thing could be on a wall, countertop or fridge.


  3. […] has been lotsa ballyhoo at Microsoft’s cool tabletop touchscreen gadget called Surface, which was released a few weeks […]


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