On the Surface: Samsung – Microsoft Collaborative Interface Revolution…

Many products don’t make the transition from idea to retail product, vapor ware is the name given to these product ideas and prototypes that simply disappear into the ether. With an incredibly popular demonstration earlier this year at CES ‘Surface‘ seemed too good to be true, and looked like one of those ideas that just may end up being an ether dweller. Thankfully ‘Surface‘ isn’t one of those products, with the announcement this week that ‘Surface SUR40‘ is available for pre-order in 23 countries. Microsoft and Samsung have delivered more than just a new touch screen, ‘Surface‘ is a new way of collaborating.

The Samsung SUR40 Surface is the retail version of the Über coffee table demonstrated at CES earlier this year, with the finished product being slimmer and lighter than the demonstration. Most often seen in it’s table format, flat out, Surface can just as easily be mounted on a wall or installed at an angle in kiosks and information booths.

“Samsung worked closely with Microsoft, quickly evolving the Surface from a frumpy gadget to it’s current thin design, and with the most powerful vision-based capabilities in the LCD market, Surface shines.

The Samsung SUR40 for Microsoft Surface delivers an interactive experience not available anywhere else and will change the way companies engage with their customers,” said Jeong-Hwan Kim, senior vice president of Display Sales & Marketing team at Samsung Electronics.

While many may look at Surface simply as a 40inch iPad there is far more to the Surface 2 software and the PixelSense hardware. The PixelSense hardware turns each pixel of the display – 2 million pixels – into a contact sensor. Infrared LED’s are arranged in the grid of backlight LED’s built into the back of the LCD panel. When an object is in contact with the surface it reflects infrared light back to the sensors behind each pixel of the display. The Surface 2 software interprets the PixelSense data and relays it to Windows or an application.

The level of detail PixelSense can sense is more akin to a video camera than a traditional touch system. As the marketing material states, PixelSense is Vision-based interaction without cameras. As each pixel on the display is a sensor PixelSense is able to tell the shape of an object or when an object is rotated, not just contact and movement. The PixelSense technology also has the ability to track multiple objects at once, while most touch input systems struggle tracking a few points at once Surface can track up to 50 objects simultaneously.

Surface party…

Without the stand Surface occupies 109.5×10.25×70.74 cm – 43.11×4.04×27.85 in – and weighs in at 39.5 kg – 87.1 lb. -. Providing the pixel pushing power is an AMD Athlon X2 245e CPU – Dual-Core 2.9GHz – along with the AMD HD6750M GPU. Also included is 4 GB of DDR3 on-board, a 320 GB hard drive, 1 HDMI port, 4 USB 2.0 ports and a standard 100/1000 Ethernet jack. The operating system of choice here is Windows 7 with the Surface 2.0 software taking care of the interface.

Corporate customers already includes; Aéroports de Paris, Dassault Aviation, Fujifilm Corp. and Royal Bank of Canada, all have big plans for the Samsung SUR40 and are preparing to deploy units in locations early next year.

Microsoft has already released the Software Developers Kit – SDK – for those wishing to develop or update applications to work with Surface. The SDK is already being put to good use, a team of University of Massachusetts researchers recently used Surface to enable a new way of controlling robots that is apparently easy enough to allow a novice to quickly control a swarm of robots. The DREAM interface they have created was initially designed for Search and Rescue purposes, combining various real world information, images and control icons over a real time map of the emergency area. On the surface the DREAM interface resembles the latest Real-Time Strategy game – Command and Conquer – but this is no game.

Microsoft’s interface revolution continues with the introduction of the Kinect Accelerator program. Part competition, part start-up generator the initiative calls for developers to submit applications ideas for the Kinect. 10 lucky start-ups will receive $20,000 and be shipped of to Kinect boot camp in Seattle for 3 months of intensive development work. At the end of the time Microsoft is hoping there will be 10 new leading edge uses that push the Kinect into markets other than gaming.

To finish off Microsoft’s interface revolution is the release of Microsoft’s Office 2019 video. Presented for your viewing pleasure is Microsoft’s interpretation of the not too distant future, a brief glimpse into Microsoft’s imagination. The video transports us to the year 2019, to a place seemingly just like our own world, we see people living their lives, everything seems familiar. Familiar that is until a surface is touched and it springs to life. Not only is every object in Microsoft’s future vision an interactive surface but they are all seamlessly connected together, and not a user log-in or request for a password anywhere in sight. The Surface idea does seem great but the entire Highpants office would shut down if we had to log in to our coffee cups just to get the morning heart starter.

Microsoft has always been very effective at harnessing the small enterprise or individual developer, building communities and application libraries like no other. With SDK’s for both the Surface and Kinect already on their second revision Microsoft is serious about getting people using these technologies. With the impending availability of Surface, Windows 8 for Tablets/Smartphones nearing release and Kinect Accelerator program, Microsoft seems to be jumping on-board the interface revolution.

Source: Microsoft Surface Pre-Order
Source: Microsoft The Kinect Accelerator
Source: Microsoft Office 2019
Source: DREAM Interface