On the Surface its a Table But Underneath its a Whole Lot More

Most people today have heard of touchscreens. They’re everywhere, from pda’s, to phones like the treo, to pen computers, and even kiosks. But the traditional touchscreen doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface when it comes to the new generation of multitouch touchscreens. (I couldn’t resist the pun) If you follow the latest in technologies then you probably have already heard of multitouch input devices. If not, it basically allows you to manipulate a screen with multiple inputs such as two, three or even all ten of your fingers at the same time. Traditional touchscreens can only handle one input from a single pen or mouse pointer. It’s similar to the technology used by Tom Cruise in the film ‘Minority Report’. Check out the video:

[youtube rP5y7yp06n0]

Read on to see more videos  and how this amazing new technology will start to change our lives today…

How will a multitouch screen change our lives?

Well, you begin to handle computer images or information just like you would its real life counterpart. You drag a photo across the screen and with two fingers you can rotate, stretch, shrink, or even flip the photo over and write on the back. Now imagine this surface on a tabletop and could detect what objects were sitting on it. It would recognize a phone, pda, credit card, camera, even a glass of water sitting on it. There would be no need for a separate keyboard. Just tap the screen and a virtual keyboard pops up and can be resized to fit your hands. It becomes more than just a multitouch device, it becomes a multi user device. The whole family could sit around the table and play a virtual game of monopoly just like the real board game or obviously an enhanced version with real streets, properties, hotels, railroads, you get the idea. How cool would that be?

Lets explore more situations where this technology will change the way we interact with one another and use computers:

The Family Game Night

I eluded to this situation earlier but lets expand on it here. It’s family night and everyone wants to play the popular board game monopoly. But instead of pulling the box out of the closet and going through the setup steps like counting up and passing out the money you sit down at the surface computer and tap on games and then tap on Monopoly. Instantly the game board loads with everyone sitting around the table. You choose the number of players by dragging the player pieces in front of you and instantly you have your monopoly money appear also. Now, you can play with real dice or digital dice, thats up to you. The first person shakes the dice on the screen and you drag your piece across the board that number of spaces. Again the screen instantly expands to show life like details of the property. Do you buy or pass? That could depend on the condition of the property. How about when you purchase or land on a hotel you instantly get a 3D view of the building inside and out. The more you pay for the hotel the nicer it looks and the more rent it will be too. I can’t wait to play monopoly like that.

Here are some other games I would love to see enhanced for the surface computer: Almost every board game: Risk, Stratego, LIFE, Scrabble, Chutes & Ladders, Chess, Checkers, and Pictionary just to name a few; Battleship, Mastermind, Jigsaw puzzles (made from any photo or video), Connect Four, and I could go on and on… Don’t forget that all of these multiplayer games will be able to play over the Internet as well. So even when the family is not physically together you can still get together on a couple of surface computers and enjoy Family Night. What other games would you like to see?

The Sales Pitch

Two business men or women get together over lunch to discuss a new business opportunity. They sit down at a “surface” computer and place their phones on the table and immediately the table displays each business card on the screen. A simple swipe of the hand and the cards are swapped between each of the phones. Next, the salesman pulls up an interactive presentation from his phone and rotates the presentation to face the other person. The presentation has sketches, videos, and even a demonstration of this new product that the salesman is selling. The buyer is hooked and wants to buy. The salesman brings up an order form and quickly fills it out. The buyer zooms into the signature line and signs his name to seal the deal. A copy of the form is quickly made and transfered to both phones to upload back to the office.

The Song Swapper

Two teenagers place their ipods on the “surface” computer and immediately the song list from both ipods show up on the screen. Each of them scans the other’s song list with album cover’s displayed of course. I tap of a song lets them sample the song. And finally they simply drag the songs they want to their own ipod. Voila, they just swapped music with each other effortlessly.

The Gamblers Night Out

Instead of a video poker machine in a casino imagine sitting down at a surface computer. Place your casino card on the table and the games begin. You could have several games playing at the same time and manipulate the screen to zoom in and out of each of the games. Play multiple Texas Hold’em matches on a sinlge surface computer simultaneously while choosing songs from a jukebox, or ordering drinks from the side of the screen. The playing cards on the screen are moved around like real cards. Need to place bets for the horse races and then watch the race? Just drag the teller window into view to place your bets and then drag the TV view next to where ever is best on your screen. Here are some other casino games you could load up: roulette wheel, craps, blackjack, bingo, kino, and many more.

The Photo or Video Collection

You set your camera phone on a surface computer and all of your digital images are displayed immediately. You drag and rotate the photos or videos to view and sort the ones you like. You can edit the photos by cropping, adding text, cleaning up the images, and in many other ways. When your done you can drag them into albums or print individual photos by dragging them onto a printer on the screen and in no time you have a hard copy of the photo. Don’t forget to drag that updated album back onto your phone before you leave. And if you want to share those photos or videos with anyone all they have to do is set their pda, camera, or phone on the table.

The Concierge

In a hotel you will no longer need to check in at a counter. You could do it at a surface computer. Looking to do something while you’re in town? Bring up the directory with a list of attractions and events in the area. Order show tickets or movie tickets and drag the electronic receipt onto your phone. Need directions to the show? Bring up the map, zoom in or out to get the view you need and then just tap to where you are and where you need to go and the directions will be printed on the screen for you. Now just drag the directions onto your phone and you are ready to go with tickets and directions in hand, I mean… in phone.

It’s time to look below the “Surface”:

Popular Mechanics review of Microsoft Surface Computing.
An in depth look at whats below the Surface. (May 30, 2007)
[youtube -9j_tYP-kzc]

Are you ready for this technology? Because it’s already here!

Microsoft Announces “Surface” Computing for around $10,000!

Microsoft just announced this past Wednesday (May 30, 2007) there version of multitouch technology and they call it Surface Computing. These computing surfaces will start popping up in restaurants, hotels, casinos, stores, lobbies, and other commercial venues THIS YEAR! Eventually it will become affordable enough to buy for your home. I would love to have one of these in my family room! But I will have to wait for the $10,000 price tag to come down a little first.
For more information on Microsoft Surface Computing visit http://www.microsoft.com/surface.

Here are more videos of the MultiTouch Technology: (The last three videos are from Jeff Han, one of the main developers of the “interface-free” touch-driven computer screen.)

Microsoft Surface: The Power (May 30, 2007) [youtube IqVNAnuQQyg]
Microsoft Surface: The Magic (May 30, 2007) [youtube bZuGClKRDtc]
Multitouch Interaction Experiments
First Demonstrations of Multitouch technology from New York University Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences. (January 2006)
[youtube 1ftJhDBZqss]
Jeff Han is a research scientist for New York University’s Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences. Here, he demonstrates—for the first time publicly—his intuitive, “interface-free,” touch-driven computer screen, which can be manipulated intuitively with the fingertips, and responds to varying levels of pressure. (February 2006) [youtube PLhMVNdplJc]
Perceptive Pixel – Founded by Jeff Han. Demonstration Video (January 2007) [youtube ysEVYwa-vHM]

Here are some other sites that are also writing about Multitouch Technology or Microsoft’s announcement on Surface Computing:

What other scenarios can you think of for this technology?

One thought on “On the Surface its a Table But Underneath its a Whole Lot More

  1. Pingback: Leon’s Blog - thinking about life and technology into the wee hours of the night » Have you started your 2007 Christmas Shopping yet?

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