While hanging out in Hollywood for the TCA press tour my gal BuzzSugar got a chance to get up close and personal with Microsoft's newly-announced 'Surface' table, which is a multi-touch table that aims to change the way we interact with digital content. Buzz reports that the device is going to be on display in Starwood Hotels, T-Mobile stores and some other places soon, but it's still several years from home use. Oh course, it has a hefty price tag of $10,000, so you better start saving up.
The table looks like a regular coffee table at first glance, but it has cameras and touch sensitivity (iPhone style, but bigger) and you can do everything from organize photos to watch videos to drag and drop music into your Zune (of course it’s the Zune ...Thanks, Microsoft).
For additional photos and some of the coolest applications Buzz witnessed,
- In one application, called Video Puzzle, the guy played a video on the table, but all we saw was a blank, black screen. He then dropped several square pieces of clear lucite on the table, and the picture popped up playing through those pieces. You could arrange them however you wanted, with the idea that you would put them together like puzzle pieces to see the full picture.
- In another, the guy demonstrated how you could use it to order drinks at a restaurant (when you put your drink down on the table, it drew a ring around it like a virtual coaster). He then pulled up a bill of food and drinks that had been ordered by two people. He then dragged the listing for each item toward one drink on the table or to the other, splitting the bill and showing each person their own total. One that they are using for Starwood Hotels is a music application that would let you find out what music was playing in the lobby. If you wanted to download that song, you could put your Zune down on the table, and it instantly recognizes it and its files, so you can drag and drop songs into it. If you put two Zunes on the table, you can share music between them by dragging and dropping. This is something they think can eventually be expanded to anything with an RFID tag.
- Maybe the most immediately useful application is the one for T-Mobile. The scenario he set up was that you’re shopping for cell phones and want to be able to compare and contrast their features. You put phones on the Surface and it immediately recognizes them, creating side-by-side comparison cards of the phones. If you’ve chosen one and you want to buy a plan, you can scroll through a list of plans and pull up descriptive cards on each, which you can rotate so multiple people can see them (that’s a bad description, but he said, “So then you say, what do you think about this one, honey?” and mimicked turning the card at an angle to show someone who was looking over his shoulder.) If you choose your plan, you just draw and drop it into the phone, and the salesperson knows to come ring you up.