Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Does 'Surface Computing' have depth?


Reg Hardware reports: [edited]

This week Microsoft demonstrated a 'multi-touch' coffee table user interface it calls Surface Computing, and it got the BBC - and some Register readers - very excited.

But let's set the record straight.

Microsoft's Surface Computing isn't "a new paradigm", nor is it adding any innovation to an existing paradigm. Table computing isn't a new market, either, and Microsoft's demos are years away from being productized.

In fact, according to Bill Buxton - ironically a Principal Researcher at Microsoft's own research centre - these kinds of multi-touch interfaces have been around for over twenty years. Perhaps the Surface Computing marketing guys at Microsoft should check out Bill's web site.

Moreover, perhaps Microsoft and developers like Jeff Han at NYU, who are building these 'old-school' multi-touch interfaces out of cameras and projectors, should consider the fatal flaw in their 'innovations'. This being that all back-projection interfaces are enormous. Think about it - you've essentially got a small cinema in a box behind a screen. Forget mobility and portability. Is it even moveable?

The systems look pretty on YouTube, but more pragmatic developers have known for some years that a successful commercial product would have to be flat and portable. People just don't want huge cabinets in the era of mobile computing and flat-screen TV's.

According to the BBC, "Microsoft said it aimed to produce cheaper versions for homes within three to five years". And despite the sterling work of the likes of Philips et al, Microsoft have also claimed to be "the first major technology company to bring surface computing to market in a commercially ready product".

These conflicting statements seem to raise question marks over quite how far Microsoft have actually got. Only time will tell whether or not these demos are just smoke, mirrors, cameras and projectors.
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2 comments:

Major Look said...

Am I missing something here - or aren't these the same tables we used to see in pubs that had Space Invaders and GORF on them?

brett jordan said...

Yes, you are missing something... the tables we used to see in pubs had Space Invaders and GORF on them... not soppy, girly family photos... so much for progress eh?

 
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