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back to article Microsoft waves in Minority Report-style computing era

Microsoft launched Surface Computing last night, and with a new computing paradigm - the table-top. Surface Computing allows users to interact by waving their hands around. The technology, which Redmond has been working on for last five years, has been top secret until now. The basic premise is a PC built into a coffee table …

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Cool factor.

Let's face it, with the iPod Apple showed you don't have to be first to market or have the best product or functionality - just have something with the cool factor. The wheel on iPods is more than a gimmick, it's actually consistently fun to use, and differntiatred them as market leaders quite quickly.

Ignoring a patent minefield - since US patents are decided by morons in favour of big business anyway ;) - Microsoft have one other barrier to overcome. No matter how well they implement the different uses here, it will initially launch as a pricey gimmick as it'll only be high end hospitality. It will have to both really take off, AND drop in price before they stand a chance of hoem users picking up, or else it'll do a PS3.

One last point, is anyoen else wondering about the "barcode"? Let's say my table detects a credit card sized shape and searches for an RFID chip. Is this secure, or will MS try to push a new secured standard for both cards and for portable devices?

All in all, it's risky, but it's got a wow factor that will draw non techy types away from noticing what a POP (pile of poo) their flagship desktop OS is, which has to be good for their shares.

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Anonymous Coward

Food etc

Well, yeah you could get food and marks on it.

You can get food and marks on anything. You could get worse on anything.

For instance, your phone on your desk. Caked with grey gunge right? The receiver is probably covered with this greasy sludge too. Oh, and door handles never ever get cleaned, so they are caked too.

Let's face it, food and marks are just a part of life.

As to the ergonomics of the thing - good points made about the back ache and the pointless tv function.

It would be better if it was slanted and at a reasonable height to the user.

The applications?

*Sigh*

Hope Apple's I-Phone is decent.

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Anonymous Coward

First shipping product if it arrives before the end of the year?

iPhone due out in June will use the same concept for manipulating images, moving through lists, etc and even that won't be the first to ship with it.

I think the main issue people have with MS being at the helm of this is that their track record is so fundamentally poor. Half-arsed mediocre implementations are their forte so it could be yet another promising concept that is let-down badly by MS. This *does* look like fantastic technology (and it won't limited to coffee tables). It has huge potential to be very popular once its matured and the price reaches joe pub's range. But, god, does it have to be from coming Microsoft? Is there anyone who would disagree that any other company than MS would be better suited as the proselytiser for this, even a start-up? OK, maybe not Dell, but...

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Technology Enables Old Ideas

The idea of a gesture-enabled interface has been around for a long time. Office Automation conferences in the early 80's included a number of ideas, ranging from touch screens to walls of screens (or very large screens), controlled by large-scale gestures (and voice).

Wang Laboratories had a clever gesture-controlled interface with fully graphic icons (thumbnails of actual documents, including thickness; ability to "staple" documents together and "undo" them) before Windows 3.0.

All of this however, needed much more powerful computers and standard device interfaces to get to Microsoft's "new" idea. So give Microsoft credit for being first to a commercial market, albeit one limited by an initial high price, and let's hope that imaginative and innovative hardware designers can now figure out how to build smaller (and larger), less expensive and more mobile designs.

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Very Cool!

This is not new in tech terms... 8 years ago I demo'd a touch screen plasma TV/PC.. It was awesome. What many here seem to miss is execution... Much the same as Apple did not invent the portable music player, but took the idea in a completely different direction.

The potential for this is HUGE... For me the most exciting aspect is collaboration! This will pull me back into programming, I'm watching for the SDK!

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Vacuous demo there

I couldn't stand to watch the videos more than once but didn't the voice over say something like "live in a world of leisure where entertainment is king!" Yuck!

There were a couple of interesting things in there but what they showed over and over and over was moving, rotating and scaling photos. Have they nothing more interesting to show?

Anyone who finds the MS demos exciting, should most certainly take a look at "the real thing" at http://www.perceptivepixel.com/ -- there is FAR more conceptual depth shown there. And there are far more interface concepts than "drag with a finger instead of with a mouse." There are several examples of manipulating 3D structures, as well as using multiple fingers on both hands and having TWO people working at the same screen... either on their own objects or TOGETHER with the other person.

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Reply to Nick Ryan

Here is a quote from you.

"Notice something about all the examples? It's only used in the dark, which is nice considering that on average it's dark only 50% of the time!"

Where is your head at? If you have gone to http://surface.com and saw the videos you would have noticed that in every video, at least one of the demos had light in the room and you could see perfectly well just like any other screen. Also on the Today Show on NBC Bill Gates demoed Surface and that was in light too.

You also said:

"multiple point touchscreen interfaces aren't an especially new technology."

Uhh.. No one said that Multi-Touch was new, what they said was it was new for a computer to recognize other objects and respond to them (i.e. the cup being placed down in "The Power" video. Or the jigsaw puzzle).

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Anonymous Coward

The multi touch stuff for the iPhone was purchased not invented by APPL

,,,was not invented or envisioned by APPL, it was purchased from ...

(the rest is queestionable as well)

According to this pub: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2007/06/01/fentem_microsoft_surface/

Oh wait, it the same rag... That posters are now responding too, but I do not see these folks stating APPL stole, uhh, regurgitated, re-used, repurposed anything

///Quote

Apple acquired the multi-touch know-how that is going into their imminent iPhone product from the company Fingerworks , http://www.fingerworks.com

///End Quote

Like the earlier poster, if it came from APPL in exactly the same design, it would have been heralded as the second coming or the greatest invention ever.

As stated in another post sometime back…

///

iPhone maybe iCopied from Taiwan

This has been done last year --- on Linux and no one seemed to have noticed or shoudl I say cared.

Photos FIC's Linux handset CNET News.com

http://news.com.com/2300-1037_3-6134795.html?tag=nefd.gallery

Not a single comment. But APPL comes out and it's the greatest innovation since fire. Maybe an iReThink is in order. Or at least give credit to the original.

///

And there are other example of other vendors using so-called iPhone design idea well before APPL.

Any GOOG search will find it for you.

There are very few very original things anymore these days.

They are either ripoffs from some very old sci-fi movie and the like, that someone said, ‘Hey, I can make that! oh yeah and people will think it is all mine, hahahahahahah!’

Every IT company today is on a buyng spree and has been for years and then incorporating into an offering. Get over it. It's just business, not personal.

Very Sad indeed.

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Anonymous Coward

how does a human manage to never have seen one delivery of startrek ?

or is there only empathic aliens on board of the mickey soft battlestar(tled) and thus they still have to make do with

c:\<blink, blink>

??

hail them, mr Worf. They might need our assistance......

;)

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Anonymous Coward

I know it's one of the most boring topics in the world, but...

One of the biggest misconceptions about digital music seems to be that Apple/Microsoft/other digital music stores etc are the ones imposing DRM. They're not - retailers know that they'd get massively more sales if content was DRM-less and save everyone a lot of time. The problem is that three of the big four (and it's pretty much only UMG, WMG and SonyBMG in the world - see emusic, wippit etc for indie MP3s!) stipulate that DRM is required. It's DRM, 'end of'.

"While glancing at the site I noticed 2 young ladies exchanging songs for their Zunes. I can only assume in this "Brave New World" that DRM has finally died out."

With the Zune, you can transfer to a friend for 3 plays / 3 days only - http://www.reghardware.co.uk/2007/02/06/review_microsoft_zune_mp3_music_player/page3.html

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I love it ...

okay - so whatever you think of M$ this demo site looks soooo good. And if M$ get it off the ground, then good luck too em. I'll be handing over my folding stuff for a coffee table that looks tthat good!

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Better applications.....

Not sure where i saw this, it was a few years ago, but there is a demo somewhere of a similar (tabletop, multi touch) interface, being used to play Warcraft 3 (for non-gamers thats the strategy game that preceded the MMO), drag around the units with your hands to select, jab the enemy to attack.

And on the "detecting your empty pint" note, for that to work properly the barcode should be on the side of the glass in such a way that the light signal can be refracted to/from it only when there is less than a certain volume in the glass, having it on the bottom gives no information as to the amount of liquid in the glass.

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