Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Version 2 Surfaces

Today I was asked to comment on Microsoft's surface computing technology by one on the UK's TV news programmes ... in the event one of my colleagues did the interview since I was already busy.  So I thought I would use my blog today to make comment.   It seems slightly co-incidental though that the media is picking up on the Microsoft multi-touch initiative on the day when the media would also or otherwise be concentrating on reporting the latest news from Apple about their iPhone multi-touch system software.  No vying for coverage I suppose?  

The difference between the two is quite stark ... of course they are both multi-touch interfaces to computing devices for humans, but beyond that the resemblance fades.  Apple's multi-touch on iPhone and iPod Touch is a successful implementation of a radical user interface on products out in the marketplace, rather than a prototype research lab project.  It is limited to relatively small size screens at least economically although as we saw when the iPhone was launched, unit wholesale prices for otherwise expensive components can come down very fast once the whole market rushes to follow a lead.  The word on Surface version two is that it uses additional projectors to allow layering of items displayed on the table top.  Surface 2 also uses additional infra red sensors to recognise gestures the user makes without touching the display's surface.  Gesture controlled computing will be increasingly important in the future - a number of approaches to achieving it that I have seen first hand in various laboratories suggests that there will indeed be different optimal implementations addressing the cost/quality balance. 

I hope the various companies working on these technologies will concentrate on the user as a priority rather than competing for air time minutes.  

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