Surface surfaces, but not in Seattle

Surface. Photo Credit: Microsoft

Redmond’s Surface technology, which has been in development since at least 2001, looks to have its commercial debut at AT&T Wireless stores. However, the Northwest won’t be one of these test sites — SF, San Antonio, Atlanta and NYC were apparently higher on the priority list. (San Antonio??)

The system, which resembles in most iterations a touch-sensitive LCD embedded in a tabletop, was an early use of the same “multi-touch” technology later popularized by Apple’s iPhone. Users can rotate, adjust and more around digital images or other virtual objects on the screen surface, and special sensors allow the table to ‘recognize’ what objects are placed on top of it. Presumably the use scenario in a cell phone store is to be able to compare different mobile handsets by placing them on top of the screen, with specs and comparisons automatically appearing on the display.

The technology sounds interesting, but the whole project has seen its ups and downs in its long gestation. All sorts of use case scenarios have been thought through but never implemented, including arcades and gaming-themed restaurants with Surface-enabled tables. The AT&T retail store seems somehow less revolutionary and more mundane by comparison. And in the years that Surface has been in development, the iPhone has stolen a bit of the thunder about direct haptic manipulation of digital media. Now every hipster on Capitol Hill is carrying a hand-held device in their shirt pocket that can rotate and scale pictures with their fingers.

Photo Credit: Microsoft

2 Comments so far

  1. Ryan (ryanhealy) on April 2nd, 2008 @ 9:17 am

    I’m assuming Surface is the same as this…?

  2. Tara Tiger Brown (tarabrown) on April 4th, 2008 @ 1:08 am

    I’ve seen some really exciting ways in which the Surface can be used. It has been demo’d around with more implementation ideas than just rotating and scaling pictures. I agree that AT&T was less than a thrilling choice for showing off its capabilities. Problem is getting places like restaurants to replace their tables and upgrade their POS systems to support Surface. It’s all about the $$.

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