One of Microsoft Corp.’s biggest secrets looks like a normal coffee table. Until it’s switched on.
After years of covert development, Microsoft says it will release a computer that uses the tabletop as its high-resolution display, recognizes objects placed on the surface and skips the traditional keyboard and mouse in favor of fingers on the screen.
What it is: A computer in the form of a table, using the hard acrylic tabletop as a high-resolution screen. First product from Microsoft’s previously secret Surface Computing team, which has 120 employees.
How it works: The surface itself isn’t touch-sensitive, but a series of cameras inside the table can see when someone places or drags a finger, hand or any other object on or across the tabletop screen. Internal projector lights screen from beneath.
Interface: People can use their hands to touch and move virtual objects on the screen, just as they would with a mouse on a traditional PC. The system also can recognize objects placed on the surface, based on their shape or on special codes affixed to them.
Size: 22 inches high, 21 inches deep, 42 inches wide, with 30-inch screen.
Technology: Uses a custom software interface on top of Microsoft’s Windows Vista. Comes with wired Ethernet, integrated Wi-Fi and Bluetooth wireless, hard drive and 1 GHz processor.
Initial customers: Harrah’s Entertainment, Starwood Hotels and Resorts, T-Mobile and IGT, the gaming technology company. Microsoft says consumer availability is still a few years away.
Competition: Microsoft isn’t alone in exploring this area. See a similar technology demonstrated by NYU researcher Jeff Han online at goto.seattlepi.com/r777.