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It’s a big ass table…

Microsoft has been working on something they call “Surface” technology. Basically, it is a touch sensitive user interface, and it is usually demonstrated using a large, flat horizontal LCD panel… a table. I’ve had my doubts about the usefulness of this technology outside of a niche environment- but I’m ready to be proven wrong. That said, I find the following video pretty effectively expresses my doubts…


5 comments to It’s a big ass table…

  • It’s the “We are just as cool as apple, really we are!” syndrome. I can see lots of uses for that sort of interface … for school or work. If you have a dig ass desk with a lot of papers and documents, I can see replacing it with a big ass desk that is interactive. For office or school. For other work areas, it would be fantastic in plant operations, monitoring , security, air traffic control … anything that could benefit from combining lots of video, graphics and text in a large fluid interface. Really, it’s sort of like the interfaces on the Next Generation Enterprise that changed as the crew used them and “punched buttons”.

    But instead of showing those uses ( how about for examining cat scans, MRI, x rays and other digital medical imagery along with chart information? ) Microsoft has this great tool, but wants to be “cool” and “hip.” So they show a big ass table doing iPhone type functions, or a couple of ( sad to say, geeky looking people ) in a bar… because they are hip and cool. It’s cool to play with fake bubbles on the table right?

    When I first saw the “I’m a mac / I’m a PC” ads I chuckled, but thought they were playing to old stereotypes and prejudices. But lately it seems as if Microsoft is actually trying live down to the very worst traits in the worst of those commercials.

    News flash: Being yourself is cool. Trying to be cool is not.

  • I can absolutely see some great uses for the surface technology. Unfortunately, none of the ones that make any sense to me, like military command and control, medical systems, large control systems for manufacturing or plant operations, high end design… are mass market ideas.

    I think of myself as pretty much the ultimate geek. I sit here with three or four large displays on my desk glowing happy radiation at me. But I can’t for the life of me see dedicating a huge horizontal surface for UI: it is totally not ergonomic as a display, and it is incredibly wasteful in terms of space as a user interface for my purposes. I could see perhaps incorporating touch features into a future display, but it would be a novelty to me, not something truly of value. To me, the keyboard and mouse are far superior for data entry.

    The one place I can see mass market use for a touch interface like this is in a small tablet computer or something like the iPhone. And there, to me, it is a compromise: there isn’t enough space for the better UI of a keyboard and mouse, so you turn your display into an input device as well.

    I’ll probably be eating my words a few years from now, and the new Surface UI features in Windows 7 will be incredibly useful. But right now, all I see is a Big Ass table 🙂

  • Shane

    I liked the part “why use a cell phone to chart your car with gps, when you can use something the size of an actual car” 🙂

  • Oblivions

    Artists, I could see them making really neat use of this technology. I’s think it would also be fun, but again I agree with Kelly that a horizontal surface is not very practical. Maybe something like that at table but it need not BE the table.

    Neat, but superfluous for non-professional use I think.

  • I’d stick it on a wall. Have it display live hi res video of someplace outside as one of it’s defaults … voila` fake window. You could walk up to it, touch it, and call up your mail, TV, video calls etc.

    Still 10K is damn pricey to have in everyones home … but flat screen displays started out at over 10K, and showed up in airports and places like that before they got into homes.

    Something like this would be great as an information kiosk in an airport for example… and eventually, if they get the price down to 3-4k, people will hang one on their wall rather than a “plain” flat screen TV.

    Of course, because Microsoft is so big into digital rights management you won’t actually be able to watch any TV on it, and you won’t be able to have any storage attached to it because you might store movies on it, and you couldn’t connect it to the net because you might pirate music with it….

    But hey … you can always use it as a coffee table! 😀

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