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Microsoft Surface (Codename: Milan), is a multi-touch product from Microsoft which is developed as a software and hardware combination technology that allows a user, or multiple users, to manipulate digital content by the use of natural motions, hand gestures, or physical objects. It was announced on May 29 2007 at D5 conference.[1] Initial customers will be in the hospitality businesses, such as restaurants, hotels, retail, public entertainment venues and the military for tactical overviews. The preliminary launch was on April 17, 2008, when Surface became available for customer use in AT&T stores.[2] The Surface is also being used in the CBS series CSI: MIAMI, where the crime lab uses it for investigation purposes, the MSNBC coverage of the 2008 US presidential election,[3] Disneyland’s future home exhibits, and various hotels and casinos.

OverviewEdit

Surface is essentially a Windows Vista PC[4] tucked inside a table, topped with a 30-inch reflective surface in a clear acrylic frame. A projector underneath the surface projects an image onto its underside, while five cameras in the machine's housing record reflections of infrared light from human fingertips. The camera can also recognize objects placed on the surface if those objects have specially-designed "tags" applied to them. Users can interact with the machine by touching or dragging their fingertips and objects such as paintbrushes across the screen, or by placing and moving tagged objects. Surface has been optimized to respond to 52 touches at a time. During a demonstration with a reporter, Mark Bolger, the Surface Computing group's marketing director, "dipped" his finger in an on-screen paint palette, then dragged it across the screen to draw a smiley face. Then he used all 10 fingers at once to give the face a full head of hair.

Using the specially-designed barcode-style "Surface tags" on objects, Microsoft Surface can offer a variety of features, for example automatically offering additional wine choices tailored to the dinner being eaten based on the type of wine set on the Surface, or in conjunction with a password, offering user authentication.

A commercial Microsoft Surface unit is $12,500 (unit only), whereas a developer Microsoft Surface unit costs $15,000 and includes a developer unit, five seats and support.[5] However Microsoft said it expects prices to drop enough to make consumer versions feasible in 2010.[6]

Partner companies use the Surface in their hotels, restaurants, and retail stores. The Surface is used to choose meals at restaurants, plan vacations and spots to visit from the hotel room. Starwood Hotels plan to allow users to drop a credit card on the table to pay for music, books, and other amenities offered at the resort. In AT&T stores, use of the Surface include interactive presentations of plans, coverage, and phone features, in addition to dropping two different phones on the table and having the customer be able to view and compare prices, features, and plans. MSNBC's coverage of the 2008 US presidential election used Surface to quickly and easily share with viewers information and analysis of the race leading up to the election. The anchor analyzes polling and election results, views trends and demographic information and explores county maps to determine voting patterns and predict outcomes, all with the flick of his finger. In some hotels and casinos, users can do a range of things such as, watch videos, view maps, order drinks, play games, and chat and flirt with people between Surface tables.

HistoryEdit

The technology behind Surface is called multi-touch and has at least a 25-year history,[7] beginning in 1982, with pioneering work being done at the University of Toronto (multi-touch tablets) and Bell Labs (multi-touch screens). The product idea for Surface was initially conceptualized in 2001 by Steven Bathiche of Microsoft Hardware and Andy Wilson of Microsoft Research.[8]

In October 2001, a virtual team was formed with Bathiche and Wilson as key members, to bring the idea to the next stage of development.

In 2003, the team presented the idea to the Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates, in a group review. Later, the virtual team was expanded and a prototype nicknamed T1 was produced within a month. The prototype was based on an IKEA table with a hole cut in the top and a sheet of architect vellum used as a diffuser. The team also developed some applications, including pinball, a photo browser and a video puzzle. Over the next year, Microsoft built more than 85 early prototypes for Surface. The final hardware design was completed in 2005.

A similar concept was used in the 2002 science fiction movie Minority Report . As noted in the DVD commentary, the director Steven Spielberg stated the concept of the device came from consultation with Microsoft during the making of the movie. One of the film's technology consultant's associates from MIT later joined Microsoft to work on the Surface project.[9]

Surface was unveiled by Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer on May 30, 2007 at The Wall Street Journal's 'D: All Things Digital' conference in Carlsbad, California.[10] Surface Computing is part of Microsoft's Productivity and Extended Consumer Experiences Group, which is within the Entertainment & Devices division. The first few companies to deploy Surface will include Harrah's Entertainment, Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, T-Mobile and a distributor, International Game Technology.[11]

On April 17, 2008 AT&T became the first retail location to launch Surface.[12] In June 2008 Harrah’s Entertainment launched Microsoft Surface at Rio iBar[13] and Disneyland launched it in Tomorrowland, Innoventions Dream Home[14]. On August 13, 2008 Sheraton Hotels introduced Surface in their hotel lobbies at 5 locations[15]. On September 8, 2008 MSNBC began using the Surface to work with election maps for the 2008 US Presidential Election on air. MSNBC's political director, Chuck Todd, was placed at the helm.

FeaturesEdit

Microsoft notes four main components being important in Surface's interface: direct interaction, multi-touch contact, a multi-user experience, and object recognition.

Direct interaction refers to the user's ability to simply reach out and touch the interface of an application in order to interact with it, without the need for a mouse or keyboard. Multi-touch contact refers to the ability to have multiple contact points with an interface, unlike with a mouse, where there is only one cursor. Multi-user is a benefit of multi-touch -- several people can orient themselves on different sides of the surface to interact with an application simultaneously. Object recognition refers to the device's ability to recognize the presence and orientation of tagged objects placed on top of it.

The technology allows non-digital objects to be used as input devices. In one example, a normal paint brush was used to create a digital painting in the software.[16] This is made possible by the fact that, in using cameras for input, the system does not rely on restrictive properties required of conventional touchscreen or touchpad devices such as the capacitance, electrical resistance, or temperature of the tool used (see Touchscreen).

The computer's "vision" is created by a near-infrared, 850-nanometer-wavelength LED light source aimed at the surface. When an object touches the tabletop, the light is reflected to multiple infrared cameras with a net resolution of 1280 x 960, allowing it to sense, and react to items touching the tabletop.

Surface will ship with basic applications, including photos, music, virtual concierge, and games, that can be customized for the customers.[17]

A unique feature that comes preinstalled with Surface is the pond effect "Attract" application. Simply, it is a "picture" of water with leaves and rocks within it (a lot like a screen saver used in Windows XP or Vista). By touching the screen, you can create ripples in the water just like you were putting your hand into a real stream. Additionally, the pressure of touch alters the size of the ripple created, and objects placed into the water create a barrier that ripples bounce off, just as they would in real life.

SpecificationsEdit

Surface is a 30-inch (76 cm) display in a table-like form factor, 22 inches (56 cm) high, 21 inches (53 cm) deep, and 42 inches (107 cm) wide.[17]. The Surface tabletop is acrylic, and its interior frame is powder-coated steel. The software platform runs on a custom version of Windows Vista and has wired Ethernet 10/100, wireless 802.11 b/g, and Bluetooth 2.0 connectivity.[17] Surface applications are written using either Windows Presentation Foundation or Microsoft XNA technology.[18]

At Microsoft's MSDN Conference, Bill Gates told developers of "Maximum" setup the Microsoft Surface was going to have:

  • Intel Core Quad Xeon "WoodCrest" @ 2.66GHz
  • 4GB DDR2-1066 RAM
  • 1TB 7200RPM Hard Drive

It has a custom motherboard form factor about the size of two ATX motherboards.

Applications developmentEdit

Microsoft Surface applications can be written in Windows Presentation Foundation or XNA. The development process is much like normal Vista development, but custom WPF controls had to be created by the Surface team due to the unique interface of Surface. Developers already proficient in WPF can utilize the SDK to write Surface apps for deployments for the large hotels, casinos, and restaurants. [19]

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

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External linksEdit

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