Watching the commercial, what struck me most about Apple’s i-Phone is the way you control everything with your fingertips –- no buttons or dials.
But Microsoft appears to be taking this human touch interface concept to a higher level –- and getting a lot less attention –- with its tabletop computing play space, Surface.
Surface doesn’t use a keyboard or mouse, but instead the 30-inch display “turns an ordinary tabletop into a vibrant, dynamic surface that provides effortless interaction with all forms of digital content through natural gestures, touch and physical objects,” according to the company.
Picture a Flash enabled table-top Star Trek command console. View the demo to draw your own comparisons. The Surface surface is acrylic; dimensions are 22 inches high, 21 inches deep and 42 inches wide.
So what do you do with it? Digital finger painting. Drag and drop music around. Add ID tag and object recognition technologies and things get more interesting. Serving a glass of wine at a Surface restaurant table could display information about the wine and what you might pair with it. Pictures of the vineyard might appear, as well as info to help you plan a trip to Napa, all in a digital stream of consciousness.
By year’s end, Surface is expected to begin appearing in Microsoft partner hotels, restaurants and casinos, bundled with basic applications for photo, music, virtual concierge and games, all of which can be customized.
Whether Surface ever makes its way into the living room, who knows. But Surface runs Windows Vista and includes wired Ethernet, 802.11g and Bluetooth interfaces, so it’ll connect to your network.
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Toni Kistner is a technology writer living in Cambridge, Mass. Her main focus is networking and wireless technology.