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Author Topic: Microsoft Surface
TheHumanTarget
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Okay...before everyone begins bashing Microsoft, please read the article and respond to the technology and potential it may have. It reminds me of a tech demo that was floating around last year...Surface
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TomDavidson
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"what Microsoft calls 'multi-touch....'"
*grumble*

Lots of potential. But I seriously hope they licensed this from the guy who originally refined and demoed it. And the "put this wireless device on the table" interface is just kind of stupid, since the device would work just as easily from three feet away. I'd rather see a list of wireless devices within range appear on the desktop.

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brojack17
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Sounds interesting.
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the doctor
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Interesting. I'll be a late adopter of this, but if it catches on, what the heck, I probably need a new coffee table by then anyway...
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rollainm
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I love the potential business applications. Not sure how well it will catch on in the home, though.
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fugu13
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This is a pretty basic result of the sort of HCI research that's been becoming increasingly popular for the past five to ten years. However, one lesson to draw from that research is that, outside of certain specialized environments, uptake will likely not be high for quite some time (though price will have some impact on that).

There's one big reason. While the metaphor is nifty, it is not particularly flexible. Certain tasks can be highly optimized, so for people who perform certain sorts of repetitive tasks the system is well suited to, such as a small group of people collectively sorting through photos (like at newspapers), the system might well see early adoption. For most people, the slight ease of use increase in a few tasks will not be worth obtaining one until the price significantly decreases. A normal computer will be able to do the same tasks nearly as well, and do all the other tasks people want to do without context-shifting, too.

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fugu13
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Heh, someone in the Slashdot thread had an interesting thought: roleplaying tables. Nothing but a surface to help enable tabletop roleplaying, making it easier to bring up references, do basic calculations, et cetera. It could also keep track of and make people aware of dice throw results, given dice with one or two small magnets inside them (or other method, but that would seem to be simplest). Need a new NPC? Use an automatic generator. Keep characters sheets digitally. Et cetera.

There are a whole lot of ways to do it wrong, but it could be done right, and that's a market that could potentially sell a few when they drop below three thousand dollars.

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TheHumanTarget
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I immediately thought of CAD and image manipulation applications...
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TomDavidson
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Russell, that was actually my first thought, back in the day. For a while, when touchscreens of a decent size had dropped to $180, I'd thought about making the "Ultimate RPG Table" with a bunch of touchscreens set into oak. [Smile] Multi-touch could do it as a single table, which is a lot more elegant.
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aspectre
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I gotta admit that Microsoft's Surface looks like a winner to me.
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fugu13
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Yes, and it wouldn't necessarily require much modification/addition to the included software to make the experience happen. For instance, passing around and changing character sheets could probably be done moderately well with the image and pen functionalities -- use a blank character sheet image and 'write' on it.

Of course, it could be done a lot better than that, too.

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brojack17
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quote:
Originally posted by TheHumanTarget:
I immediately thought of CAD and image manipulation applications...

I have heard they are working on holograms for CAD. Just reach your hand in the "area" to manipulate the model.
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BandoCommando
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quote:
Originally posted by brojack17:
quote:
Originally posted by TheHumanTarget:
I immediately thought of CAD and image manipulation applications...

I have heard they are working on holograms for CAD. Just reach your hand in the "area" to manipulate the model.
According to this article on volumetric displays, that is still a LONG way off. But, yes, it'd be darned cool.
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erosomniac
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quote:
Originally posted by fugu13:
Heh, someone in the Slashdot thread had an interesting thought: roleplaying tables. Nothing but a surface to help enable tabletop roleplaying, making it easier to bring up references, do basic calculations, et cetera. It could also keep track of and make people aware of dice throw results, given dice with one or two small magnets inside them (or other method, but that would seem to be simplest). Need a new NPC? Use an automatic generator. Keep characters sheets digitally. Et cetera.

There are a whole lot of ways to do it wrong, but it could be done right, and that's a market that could potentially sell a few when they drop below three thousand dollars.

Dude.

WARHAMMER.

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fugu13
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Heh, that's another, certainly. I suspect the increase in usability in play of the game will actually be less than with tabletop roleplaying, as the bookkeeping and on-the-spot content generation needs are definitely less, but there might be a market, particularly with more dedicated game stores, given the right software.
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BandoCommando
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As much as I'm geeking out about the technology here, I foresee a couple of issues (no doubt being addressed)...

- the ergonomics of this interface are a concern. Imagine: you might be seated on a sofa, but leaning forward for extended periods of time. This will put a strain on the back. While manipulating your Surface, you will be using larger muscle groups to reach, push, and pull across the 30" surface. This may increase tension and strain in the shoulders, whereas manipulating a mouse uses less muscle effort.

- How durable is this table? Would I be able to put my feet up on it? Especially for restaurants, how scratchproof and foodproof is it? I can just picture vandals using their steak knife to carve their lover's initials into the middle of the screen, or perhaps some diatribe like "Jobs rocks, Gates drools!"

- There are certain computer applications that I have a hard time envisioning being able to use 'natural' interfaces for, such as word processing. I imagine that Gate's predicts that speech recognition would take the place of traditional typing, but until speech recognition works better than it currently does, I wouldn't see myself being happy with this. If Surface is intended to replace the traditional computer interface, it will have to overcome a lot of issues like this. (Some of you are already thinking that the system might project a virtual keyboard onto the surface, from with I would then input text. But there is something to be said about a tactile response to the pressing of keys. It would take getting used to, if that tactile response were not there).

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BlackBlade
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quote:
Originally posted by erosomniac:
quote:
Originally posted by fugu13:
Heh, someone in the Slashdot thread had an interesting thought: roleplaying tables. Nothing but a surface to help enable tabletop roleplaying, making it easier to bring up references, do basic calculations, et cetera. It could also keep track of and make people aware of dice throw results, given dice with one or two small magnets inside them (or other method, but that would seem to be simplest). Need a new NPC? Use an automatic generator. Keep characters sheets digitally. Et cetera.

There are a whole lot of ways to do it wrong, but it could be done right, and that's a market that could potentially sell a few when they drop below three thousand dollars.

Dude.

WARHAMMER.

That would have to be a good deal larger then a coffee table to be honest.

Such a table would make Magic: The Gathering or pretty much any CCG AMAZING!

Man, the last thing I need is to get back into THAT game.

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BandoCommando
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I could see how chess, checkers and other board games could be quite entertaining with Surface.
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rivka
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quote:
Originally posted by BandoCommando:
(Some of you are already thinking that the system might project a virtual keyboard onto the surface, from with I would then input text. But there is something to be said about a tactile response to the pressing of keys. It would take getting used to, if that tactile response were not there).

While it's definitely an issue, an awful lot of PDA users seem to manage.
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MrSquicky
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quote:
Heh, someone in the Slashdot thread had an interesting thought: roleplaying tables. Nothing but a surface to help enable tabletop roleplaying, making it easier to bring up references, do basic calculations, et cetera. It could also keep track of and make people aware of dice throw results, given dice with one or two small magnets inside them (or other method, but that would seem to be simplest). Need a new NPC? Use an automatic generator. Keep characters sheets digitally. Et cetera.

There are a whole lot of ways to do it wrong, but it could be done right, and that's a market that could potentially sell a few when they drop below three thousand dollars.

I already do most of these things, using a flat-screen monitor turned on its side, AutoRealm, PC Gen, and a program I wrote to keep track of the SRd content.
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Kwea
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quote:
Originally posted by rivka:
quote:
Originally posted by BandoCommando:
(Some of you are already thinking that the system might project a virtual keyboard onto the surface, from with I would then input text. But there is something to be said about a tactile response to the pressing of keys. It would take getting used to, if that tactile response were not there).

While it's definitely an issue, an awful lot of PDA users seem to manage.
And a lot of them hate those virtual keyboards, and wish they had another alternative.
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fugu13
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Exactly, and the added interface niceties of being able to pass things around to show people just by flicking them at them across the table, edit character sheets using a (Surface-aware) pen rather than a keyboard, et cetera, plus the ability to treat it as a table rather than a computer, would quite possibly make it have widespread adoption.
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Damien.m
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Hmm. I would be most worried about not being comforatable to be honest. The thought of having to be constantly leaning over something is not something I want. Maybe if they eventually released a laptop sized one I would be more excited. Still though, I want it. [Smile]
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MrSquicky
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I don't know. For the money we're talking about, I'd prefer to network a bunch of PDAs and use a touch sensitive flat screen as the central display. Most of the "devices can interact with it" doesn't seem that cool to me and having it on a shared table really cuts down on gaming privacy. If, for example, I want to pass someone a note that the rest of the party won't see, putting it up on the table seems to be self-defeating. The same could be said for character sheets.
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gsim1337
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When I looked at this I thought it just seemed like a 'desk' from Ender's Game, only bigger.
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TheTick
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I imagine there'd be a way to 'turn over' a note before sliding it over. Maybe a double-tap would flip a page. That's how I'd design it, anyway.
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Damien.m
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quote:
Originally posted by gsim1337:
When I looked at this I thought it just seemed like a 'desk' from Ender's Game, only bigger.

I thought the exact same thing. If they show us videos of text crawling around the screen I think OSC should sue. [Smile]
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fugu13
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Yes, there would definitely be various ways to covertly pass notes (and no reason you can't teleport them, too).

But a lot of the logic is the lack of need for significant modification or additional software. The basic vision can be realized with basic image and text annotation/manipulation tools that will no doubt be built into the system.

A system using multiple PDAs and a touch sensitive flat screen does not have that benefit. It also feels rather different to send something to a friend and then both peer at your PDAs while discussing something than to mutually lean over the same (possibly enlarged) 'object' on a table in front of you.

As for leaning over, I suspect the table would be mounted high and most people would sit on stools. This lets people easily move around and stand over the table, which is a typical approach to working with a spread of photographs or similar.

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MrSquicky
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I'm not sure why you wouldn't have the same functionality built into the central flatscreen display. I'd have multiple transmission channels built in, where you could send only to a subset of the people's PDA's or a general channel that would show up on the central display.

Basically, I don't what is added by this "Display" table that can't be done with even more things using an equivilent amount of money. Other than it being a table.

---

Edit: And I disagree that you'd need significant modifications. As I said, I carry out most of the things you are talking about right now with much cheaper and older tech. If I were spending the money on a good, touch sensitive flat-screen (and the software to back it up), I could implement almost all the rest without much more modifications.

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fugu13
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Being able to say "take a look here" and showing somebody next to you using the same motion you would use to slide a piece of paper over to them.

This isn't just about task-oriented functionality, it is about usability. People have done usability studies on both sorts of systems. People, on the whole, dislike using one type, and like using the other.

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MrSquicky
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Okay, I get what you are saying. I don't necessarily agree, but I'll have to think about it a little bit.
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Iain
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If it doesn't work with Linux (or DOS or CP/M), I have no use for it, mainly because I don't own a copy of Windows.

However, I also doubt I could afford it.

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rivka
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quote:
Originally posted by Kwea:
quote:
Originally posted by rivka:
quote:
Originally posted by BandoCommando:
(Some of you are already thinking that the system might project a virtual keyboard onto the surface, from with I would then input text. But there is something to be said about a tactile response to the pressing of keys. It would take getting used to, if that tactile response were not there).

While it's definitely an issue, an awful lot of PDA users seem to manage.
And a lot of them hate those virtual keyboards, and wish they had another alternative.
Given that folding keyboards have been available for longer and are cheaper (and folded up are almost as small as the largest of the projectors), clearly many are fine with the virtual keyboards.

I'm not, btw. I don't like either option at all. [Wink]

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KarlEd
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I could totally see this taking off bigtime among digital artists, especially those artist who want to go digital but are uncomfortable with a mouse or graphics tablet. It seems like it wouldl be a small thing to program "brushes" to interact with the table or to set the table up like an easel. There are already software applications that mimic brushes and papers and even lighting and gravity effects for artists with graphics tablets. This seems like a natural evolution for that.

This also seems like a great step towards total computerization of graphic design and publishing. I bet the layout departments of newpapers would love to be able to edit layouts and such on this type of system.

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TomDavidson
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Remember, though, that this table is not currently touch-sensitive, so you couldn't track brush pressure.
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Kwea
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You ccould make the "brushes" register that, I bet.
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Nighthawk
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quote:
Originally posted by Iain:
If it doesn't work with Linux (or DOS or CP/M), I have no use for it, mainly because I don't own a copy of Windows.

However, I also doubt I could afford it.

Considering Microsoft is spearheading its design, I doubt it will be Linux compliant at first... until someone hacks it.

When that happens, odds are it'll be not much different than a mouse driver.

I would so write roleplaying game engine for this thing, given time and resources.

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BandoCommando
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quote:
Originally posted by KarlEd:
I could totally see this taking off bigtime among digital artists, especially those artist who want to go digital but are uncomfortable with a mouse or graphics tablet.... This seems like a natural evolution for that.

This also seems like a great step towards total computerization of graphic design and publishing. I bet the layout departments of newpapers would love to be able to edit layouts and such on this type of system.

I was doing some more research on this Surface technology and found out about someone at NYU who already uses multi-touch surfaces in practical applications. Check this out.

I like seeing how multiple people are collaborating on a project. It looks very fluid and effortless, but it's also obvious that they have mastered a kind of gestural language understood by the surface.

You can also see them use a virtual keyboard at one point.

I found this site from reading this blog that discusses many issues relating to Surface, covering, for instance
quote:
As the new world of multi-touch-screen computing dawns, youíll see a lot of demos involving photo stretching and Web surfing demos. But you will *never* see word processors, e-mail programs, spreadsheets, databases or accounting programs. Thatís because touch-screen computers are terrible for these mainstream computing tasks. Typing of any kind, in fact, is a nightmare when you canít feel the keys. Itís inaccurate, slow and unsatisfying.

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krynn
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i think this looks pretty cool for business applications. not sure about the home just yet. though, thinking about it, it does remind me of Ender's Game. How Ender's dad would scroll through the news on the table.

i think having it be wireless and able to connect to other things like phones and cameras would be really cool. having it at restaurants would be kind neat as well.

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TheHumanTarget
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I'm just geeking out that I have two topics on the top of the page...
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krynn
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LOL. yeah i was going to make one myself after seeing their website, but i had a small bulb light up over my head and searched for an existing thread.

*Bump*

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Sm34rZ
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Didn't Apple patent "multi-touch"? That's what their iPhone uses.
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Nighthawk
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quote:
Originally posted by Sm34rZ:
Didn't Apple patent "multi-touch"? That's what their iPhone uses.

Like that will stop Microsoft from doing anything...
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