Thursday, January 10, 2008

Microsoft reveals more details on the Surface touchscreen at CES

Microsoft Reveals More Details on its Surface Computing Platform

CES 2008 CoverageBill Gates touched on Microsoft's upcoming Surface Computing platform in his CES 2008 keynote address on Sunday, but today the company is offering more details on its touch-sensitive table-top system. By adding Windows live support, Microsoft plans to use Surface not just as a novel way of interacting with digital content, but a way for consumers to create a persistent digital identity.

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"Fundamentally, we are trying to change the way people interact with digital content," says Mark Bolger, Director of Surface Computing Marketing at Microsoft. "We are bringing technology into places..."

At the moment it involves retail and hospitality locations. This fall the Surface Computers start showing up at Harrah's Entertainment's Las Vegas properties, Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, and select T-Mobile stores. "Surface is a great way to customize and personalize the customer experience at retail," Bolger says.

Microsoft's Surface is a digital interface that you navigate via touch. It is a flat, table-like display that measures 30 inches diagonally, and is designed to make it easy for multiple users to reach across and touch the screen. Images are projected onto the display via a custom DLP engine. Five infrared cameras set below the display detect contact with the display and enable users to navigate the interface.

Bolger takes care to point out that although the system is based on Windows Vista, it is not intended to replace the personal computer. "When you write your novel, you are still going to use your PC," Bolger says, "but right now when you go shopping for a snowboard there is not technology there."

By using a system of domino-like tags, objects can be identified simply by placing them on the Surface. Bolger walked me through a demo in which we selected a snowboard, decorated it with images, and then stored that information on a Windows mobile smart phone. That way when you come back to the store, you can retrieve your profile and continue your shopping experience. The connections take place instantly via Bluetooth.

The only significant improvement in the Surface platform is the Windows Live support, which will allow you to access your images, email, and account information online. Bolger says, "We want to make it easy for users to interact with all of their information out there in the cloud.",2704,2246846,00.asp


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