Your grandkids - if you don't already have them -- will one day wonder how you ever got along without motion sensor cameras and voice recognition microphones in your home office. That's assuming Microsoft's vision of a futuristic office ever comes to fruition.
In a YouTube video, Microsoft Research shows off a prototype for a next-gen office environment, which is largely built around Microsoft Surface technology. Neat tricks abound, such as holding up a document against a giant, wall-mounted Surface where it's instantly scanned and able to be pinned, but that's just the beginning.
You really have to check out the video, and we dare you not to make any comparisons to Minority Report.
It all started while we were researching an article on future user interfaces. Touch interfaces are hardly futuristic at this point, but multi-touch hardware like the Microsoft Surface or the iPhone is just starting to become a big deal, and we decided to see what big things are going on in that field. What we found that surprised us the most wasn’t anything about the future of multitouch; it was about something that people are doing right now.
There is, it turns out, a whole community of very smart folks out there on the internet perfecting the art of building DIY multi-touch surfaces. The process isn’t exactly simple, but the results we saw were stunning: multitouch surfaces with responsiveness rivaling Microsoft’s $12,000 offering, built in a garage on a shoestring budget. “Future UI article be damned,” we thought, “we’ve gotta build one of these for ourselves.”
And so we did. We documented the whole process, from start to finish, so that you can try building one of your own, if you’re so inspired. We’re not going to claim to have done everything perfectly the first time, so think of this article as more of a build log than a definitive how-to. Still, we’re very pleased with how the table turned out. We’re so pleased, in fact, that we put together a video showing the table in motion.
Read on to see the video and find out how we made it!
Currently in the development stage, the next iteration of Microsoft's Surface technology is probably about two or three years from materializing. SecondLight, as Microsoft refers to the Surface 2, will add a second camera to project images onto a layer that sits above the surface of the screen.
Also new to SecondLight / Surface 2 are built-in infrared sensors, so not only will it detect multitouch gestures, but it will be capable of reacting to mid-air movements without ever touching the screen.
While no specifics have been given about the cameras being used, Eric Klimczak, creative director of Clarity Consulting, which produces applications for the Surface, said he expects SecondLight to make use of high-definition cameras. And he's probably right, given that the Surface has been used for at least one high profile event coordinating Super Bowl security.
With the New England Patriots having been unceremoniously knocked out of playoff contention in unprecedented fashion with an 11-5 record, most of you are probably so disgusted that you won't even bother to watch the Super Bowl. But for the rest of you, and particularly those of you planning to attend and watch the Cardinals finish off their storybook playoff run with one final (and one very shocking) victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers (that's right, I'm calling the Cardinals on this one) in person, Microsoft will be helping to keep you safe during the ensuing pandemonium.
NFL security VP Milton Ahlerich said earlier that Raymond James Stadium in Tampa will be "one of the safest locations you can possibly be" during the Super Bowl, which shows how confident he is in Microsoft's Surface. Security will be using Surface to coordinate security forces, giving them a display of a Microsoft Virtual Earth map of the entire region, along with the ability to quickly zoom and display a 3D image of the city with realtime resource tracking.
"We’re thrilled to be a part of the Super Bowl activities and supporting our long term customers here in Tampa," said Robert Wolf, President and CEO of E•SPONDER. "Our goal remains to provide the region’s first responders with easy-to-use, real-time collaboration tools to help protect the fans attending events throughout Super Bowl week and the game itself."
If you followed David Murphy's path to building a budget PC with a cardboard chassis, then why not compliment it with your own homebrewed Surface, also with a cardboard exterior?
Microsoft technology evangelist Paul Foster posted a YouTube video showing how you can build a functioning multi-touch surface using budget parts. Items you'll need are paper, scissors, picture frame with glass, tape, cardboard box, a webcam, and multi-touch software such as Touchlib.
From start to finish, it takes Foster less than four minutes to complete the project and run a short demonstration. Of course, that's with a cardboard box - skilled modders will want to invest a bit more time coming up with custom enclosure.
In the coming days and years the uses for multitouch will only grow, some will act as innovative new pieces of technology that the world will benefit from, and then there will be others that lack practical use. This is the latter.
While the PQ-DVD made app (the same folks responsible for the iPod video conversion software) looks like a Microsoft Surface made just for synching media to and from an iPod (because it is), it just doesn’t look useful. The tasks, while pretty, would be far easier to complete with the traditional mouse and keyboard.
Admittedly, the software is easy on the eyes – nobody’s questioning that. But ultimately, this is a party trick. Sure it’s cool to show off when people are around, and you might use it once or twice when you’re home alone, but you and I both know that there are far easier ways of opening that bottle of beer than with your molars.
Configuring your next BMW isn't as easy as touching a table yet, but in the near future, it probably will be. BMW has released a video of its prototype BMW Product Navigator (aka BMW Konfigurator), which is powered by Microsoft Surface and designed by Vectorform, which created the interactive 2008 election map used by MSNBC.
As with the 2008 MSNBC project, Vectorform's BMW Product Navigator uses Microsoft Surface to manipulate video that is then shown on an HDTV. With the BMW Product Navigator, you place chips representing product options on the Microsoft Surface tabletop computer, and the changes you make affect the BMW shown on the video screen. And, just so you can make sure you're buying the Bimmer you want, Product Navigator can email you your custom configuration, print it, or copy it to a USB flash memory drive.
What do you think about the idea of gesturing your way to the car of your dreams? Is this the best way to use Microsoft Surface? For your chance to answer these and other burning questions, join us after the jump.
At this month’s Professional Developer Conference Microsoft will be handing out the software development kit for their Surface tabletop computer. In an announcement made on the PDC’s site, Robert Levy sates that attendees will be able to “learn how you can become a part of the expanding partner ecosystem for Microsoft Surface and leverage your existing investments in WPF (Windows Presentation Foundation) and Visual Studio to build engaging end user applications. Attendees will receive access to the Microsoft Surface SDK.”
This announcement comes as a sigh of relief to developers, who have been promised the SDK for some time now. The only known companies with access to the SDK are AT&T and Starwood hotels, whose projects are unknown. Microsoft has also been stating that the multitouch interface will be part of Windows 7, but is yet to detail how.
Let’s just hope that Chris Taylor and his boys get started on their version of Supreme Commander for the Surface ASAP!
The surface of the earth was once thought to be flat, and just as it was eventually proven to be round, will technophiles make the same discovery when it comes to surface computing? It's far too early to tell what the future of surface computing has in store, but don't be surprised if years from now your PC looks more like a globe than a flat screen.
Giving a glimpse of such a future, Microsoft showed off its spherical Surface computer during the company's annual Research Faculty Summit in Redmond. Attendees got a chance to play with the prototype that relies on an infrared system to detect hands, fingers, and objects.
"It's really an exploration of ideas," explained Hrvoje Benko, the Microsoft researcher spearheading the project.
Getting touch technology to work on a curved surface was no easy task, but Microsoft researches came up with advanced algorithms to translate images originally intended for a flat PC screen and display them correctly on the rounded globe. So far applications for the Sphere include a picture and video browser, interactive globe visualization, finger painting, and an omni-directional video conferencing application with 360 degrees of panoramic video.
Catch the YouTube video here, which also includes a version of a Pong like you've never seen before.
Just how much cooler can they make Microsoft's Surface?
Oh, I suppose they could do a nifty holographic 3D interface but that
is for the future. In the here and now, the Surface gives new meaning
reports that at a recent conference they got to look at the SDK, which
allows developers the ability to slide an object around and have it
stop based on friction or what objects it hits. Think about sliding a
photo across a desktop with your fingertips into a folder. The good
thing is if you miss, it doesn't end up on the floor. It takes the
intuitive interface of the desktop as we know it and brings it together
with our most intuitive interface device, our hands. The promise for
this technology for the future is outstanding.
Object Recognition is planned for the future. Users will be able to place physical objects on the display to trigger different types of response, like downloading images from your Bluetooth enabled phone or uploading music to an MP3 player.
Now don't you just want one of these for a coffee table in your living room?