Surface Computing

Ever wanted to move digital pictures around on the tabletop?

Ever needed to resize your snaps without much irk?

Ever imagined ordering a beverage during a meal with just a-tap-of-a-finger?

Ever thought of sending your vacation pictures within-a-wink-of-an-eye to friends and family?

If yes, then Surface Computing is all what you’d aspire to have.


Surface computing is a term used for a specialized computer GUI (Graphical User Interface), in which traditional GUI elements are replaced by everyday objects. It has no keyboard, no mouse, no trackball – no obvious point of interaction, except its screen, as there are no cables or external USB ports for plugging in peripherals.


The term “surface” describes how it’s used. All interactions with the computer are done via touching the surface of the computer’s screen with hands or brushes, or via wireless interaction with ‘physical objects’ like smartphones, digital cameras or PDAs. Unveiled at the Wall Street Journal’s “All Things Digital” conference, at the hands of Microsoft Corporation’s CEO, Steve Ballmer, it blurs the lines between the physical and virtual worlds.


Surface features a 30-inch diagonal square display built into a table configuration and runs on Windows Vista. It comprises a rear projection screen, five cameras that look through the screen to recognize and read items placed on the surface and to track hand gestures and touch, an Intel dual-core processor backed by 2 GB of RAM and a modest 256MB video card. It has in-built wired 10/100Mbit Ethernet and Bluetooth 2.0 support. Its features are:


Direct interaction: Users can grab digital information with their touch and gesture.


Multi-touch: It recognizes many points of contact simultaneously, not just from one finger like a typical touch-screen.


Multi-user: The ‘horizontal-form-factor’ makes it easy for several people to gather around them and experience a collaborative and face-to-face computing experience.


Drag-and-drop: All interface components such as dialogs, mouse pointer, and windows are replaced with circles and rectangles outlining physical objects placed on the screen and are manipulated via drag and drop.


Object recognition: Users can place physical objects on the surface to trigger different types of digital responses, including the transfer of digital content, for example, credit cards or hotel “loyalty” cards, or those having identification tags similar to bar codes. This means that when a customer simply puts a wine glass on the surface of a table, a restaurant could provide them with information about that wine and pictures of the vineyard it came from.


No interface: With no interface text, it can be used by speakers of any language and any competency level.


Harrah’s Entertainment Inc., Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc. and T-Mobile USA Inc. will be some of the first companies to provide unique Surface experiences to their customers.


Surface computing is going to revolutionize everyday lives, much like the way ATM’s changed how we get money from the bank. Surface lets us manipulate a tremendous amount of information with our hands, so that the content works with you, rather than for you. It can compare product features, prices and phone plans. With Surface’s mapping application, you can manipulate a map and move it, shrink it and access personalized data for local sites, attractions and venues. It truly has the potential to tap the multi-billion dollar industry.


Ashish Chowdhary



[Image source:]