Many science fiction films have depicted powerful computers that are no more than large touch-screen displays. In “Star Wars,” it was a series of transparent room partitions with schematics used to plan and monitor a battle out in space. In “Star Trek,” it was entire wall panels and tabletops for controlling everything on the spaceship. Today, here on Earth, Microsoft Surface is beginning to turn these sci-fi wonders into a reality.
Surface is a platform, or combination of hardware and software technologies, designed to work as a collaborative touch-screen interface for multiple simultaneous users.
The Microsoft Surface platform relies on groundbreaking software to make all of its technologies work together seamlessly. We’ve already considered the system enhancements that interpret multiple touch points and other objects. Now, we’ll zoom in to the graphical side of the NUI and look at its interactive software.
First, all the Surface software runs in what’s called the Surface Shell. In operating systems, a shell is a process used to run and manage a group of related subprocesses. Likewise, the Surface Shell is the main process that can make use of the Surface hardware functions. The initial interaction most users have with the Microsoft Surface is with the Surface Shell running some application that entices you to touch the screen. The default application for this is a virtual pond of water that ripples when you touch it.
The Samsung SUR40 with Surface 2.0, scheduled for release in fall 2011, is the first Surface device available for retail purchase worldwide. Microsoft and Samsung will sell the device, as will a number of authorized resellers. Though the price and availability of Surface puts it within reach of the home consumer, Microsoft’s target audience for Surface is still retail businesses.
The Ideum MT55 not only has more impressive hardware specifications than the Samsung SUR40 running Surface 2.0, but it also beat the SUR40 to the retail market space.
Ideum has built a giant 46-inch Android touchscreen table that can recognise up to 60 simultaneous touches. The device, which also comes in a 32-inch version, is set to go on sale later this year and prices start at $6,950 (£4,175).