Carlsbad (CA) – Microsoft today unveiled what the company calls surface computer, a new product that allows users to interact with content and information without a traditional mouse and keyboard.
The new device is scheduled to be unveiled at today’s D: All Things Digital conference and appears to not only show the future of touchscreen terminals, but also goes one step closer to what the company co-founder Bill Gates had outlined as a global content access system at the Consumer Electronics Show in 2006 (see image gallery.)
The “Surface” computer is a 30” table-top LCD that can be used by multiple people at the same time. Microsoft says, that the interactive display can recognize physical objects identification tags similar to bar codes, such as cellphones or chip-enhanced paintbrushes, but also enable users to engage in “hands-on” activities such as “digital finger painting” and interact with content through touch and “natural gestures”.
The company said that Surface will be available later this year, initially at locations such as restaurants, hotels, retail locations and casino resorts, where surface will be set up with a set of customizable applications, including photos, music and virtual concierge software. Harrah's Entertainment (which owns Caesar’s Palace and the Rio casino), Starwood Hotels & Resorts and T-Mobile USA will be the first companies to install Surface systems.
Harrah’s said that it will implement Surface to allow guests to reserve tickets to an Elton John concert, review the menu at Bradley Odgen restaurant, take a tour of its Pure nightclub and book spa treatments. The “virtual concierge” will also serve as a guide to Harrah's seven Las Vegas casinos, allowing guests to "visit" multiple venues and plan their itineraries without getting up from their table. T-Mobile retail stores planning an interaction feature with products, where cellphones can be placed on Surface where product features, prices and phone plans would appear.
"With Surface, we are creating more intuitive ways for people to interact with technology," Microsoft chief executive officer Steve Ballmer said. "We see this as a multibillion dollar category, and we envision a time when surface computing technologies will be pervasive, from tabletops and counters to the hallway mirror. Surface is the first step in realizing that vision."