Microsoft Surface

Microsoft Surface
Microsoft Surface
Microsoft Surface.png
Developer(s) Microsoft
Initial release April 17[1] 2008
Stable release Surface 2.0 / 2011
Development status Commercial applications
Operating system Surface: Windows Vista, Surface 2.0: Windows 7
Available in English

Microsoft Surface (codename Milan) is a multi-touch product from Microsoft which is developed as a software and hardware combination technology that allows a user, or multiple users, to manipulate digital content by the use of gesture recognition. This could involve the motion of hands or physical objects. It was announced on May 29, 2007 at the D5 conference.[2] Targeted customers are in the hospitality businesses, such as restaurants, hotels, retail, public entertainment venues and the military for tactical overviews. The preliminary launch was on April 17, 2008, when Surface became available for customer use in AT&T stores.[1] The Surface was used by MSNBC during its coverage of the 2008 US presidential election;[3] and is also used by Disneyland’s future home exhibits, as well as various hotels and casinos. The Surface was also featured in the CBS series CSI: Miami and EXTRA! Entertainment news. As of March 2009, Microsoft had 120 partners in 11 countries that are developing applications for Surface's interface.[4] On January 6, 2011, Microsoft previewed the latest version of Microsoft Surface at Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2011, simply named Microsoft Surface 2.0, which was built in partnership with Samsung.[5]



Microsoft Surface is a surface computing platform that responds to natural hand gestures and real world objects. It has a 360-degree user interface, a 30 in (76 cm) reflective surface with a XGA DLP projector underneath the surface which projects an image onto its underside, while five cameras in the machine's housing record reflections of infrared light from objects and human fingertips on the surface. The surface is capable of object recognition, object/finger orientation recognition and tracking, and is multi-touch and is multi-user. Users can interact with the machine by touching or dragging their fingertips and objects such as paintbrushes across the screen, or by placing and moving placed objects. This paradigm of interaction with computers is known as a natural user interface (NUI).

Surface has been optimized to respond to 52 touches at a time. During a demonstration with a reporter, Mark Bolger, the Surface Computing group's marketing director, "dipped" his finger in an on-screen paint palette, then dragged it across the screen to draw a smiley face. Then he used all 10 fingers at once to give the face a full head of hair.

Using the specially-designed barcode-style "Surface tags" on objects, Microsoft Surface can offer a variety of features, for example automatically offering additional wine choices tailored to the dinner being eaten based on the type of wine set on the Surface, or in conjunction with a password, offering user authentication.

A commercial Microsoft Surface unit is $12,500 (unit only), whereas a developer Microsoft Surface unit costs $15,000 and includes a developer unit, five seats and support.

Partner companies use the Surface in their hotels, restaurants, and retail stores. The Surface is used to choose meals at restaurants, plan vacations and spots to visit from the hotel room. Starwood Hotels plan to allow users to drop a credit card on the table to pay for music, books, and other amenities offered at the resort. In AT&T stores, use of the Surface include interactive presentations of plans, coverage, and phone features, in addition to dropping two different phones on the table and having the customer be able to view and compare prices, features, and plans. MSNBC's coverage of the 2008 US presidential election used Surface to share with viewers information and analysis of the race leading up to the election. The anchor analyzes polling and election results, views trends and demographic information and explores county maps to determine voting patterns and predict outcomes, all with the flick of his finger. In some hotels and casinos, users can do a range of things, such as watch videos, view maps, order drinks, play games, and chat and flirt with people between Surface tables


Demonstration using Microsoft Surface (View in high quality)

The product idea for Surface was initially conceptualized in 2001 by Steven Bathiche of Microsoft Hardware and Andy Wilson of Microsoft Research.[6]

In October 2001, DJ Kurlander, Michael Kim, Joel Dehlin, Bathiche and Wilson formed a virtual team to bring the idea to the next stage of development.

In 2003, the team presented the idea to the Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates, in a group review. Later, the virtual team was expanded and a prototype nicknamed T1 was produced within a month. The prototype was based on an IKEA table with a hole cut in the top and a sheet of architect vellum used as a diffuser. The team also developed some applications, including pinball, a photo browser and a video puzzle. Over the next year, Microsoft built more than 85 early prototypes for Surface. The final hardware design was completed in 2005.

A similar concept was used in the 2002 science fiction movie Minority Report. As noted in the DVD commentary, the director Steven Spielberg stated the concept of the device came from consultation with Microsoft during the making of the movie. One of the film's technology consultant's associates from MIT later joined Microsoft to work on the Surface project.[7]

Surface was unveiled by Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer on May 30, 2007 at The Wall Street Journal's 'D: All Things Digital' conference in Carlsbad, California.[8] Surface Computing is part of Microsoft's Productivity and Extended Consumer Experiences Group, which is within the Entertainment & Devices division. The first few companies to deploy Surface will include Harrah's Entertainment, Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, T-Mobile and a distributor, International Game Technology.[9]

On April 17, 2008, AT&T became the first retail location to launch Surface.[10] In June 2008 Harrah’s Entertainment launched Microsoft Surface at Rio iBar[11] and Disneyland launched it in Tomorrowland, Innoventions Dream Home.[12] On August 13, 2008 Sheraton Hotels introduced Surface in their hotel lobbies at 5 locations.[13] On September 8th, 2008 MSNBC began using the Surface to work with election maps for the 2008 US Presidential Election on air. MSNBC's political director, Chuck Todd, was placed at the helm.


Object recognition.

Microsoft notes four main components being important in Surface's interface: direct interaction, multi-touch contact, a multi-user experience, and object recognition.

Direct interaction refers to the user's ability to simply reach out and touch the interface of an application in order to interact with it, without the need for a mouse or keyboard. Multi-touch contact refers to the ability to have multiple contact points with an interface, unlike with a mouse, where there is only one cursor. Multi-user is a benefit of multi-touch—several people can orient themselves on different sides of the surface to interact with an application simultaneously. Object recognition refers to the device's ability to recognize the presence and orientation of tagged objects placed on top of it.

The technology allows non-digital objects to be used as input devices. In one example, a normal paint brush was used to create a digital painting in the software.[14] This is made possible by the fact that, in using cameras for input, the system does not rely on restrictive properties required of conventional touchscreen or touchpad devices such as the capacitance, electrical resistance, or temperature of the tool used (see Touchscreen).

The computer's "vision" is created by a near-infrared, 850-nanometer-wavelength LED light source aimed at the surface. When an object touches the tabletop, the light is reflected to multiple infrared cameras with a net resolution of 1024 x 768, allowing it to sense, and react to items touching the tabletop.

Surface will ship with basic applications, including photos, music, virtual concierge, and games, that can be customized for the customers.[15]

A unique feature that comes preinstalled with Surface is the pond effect "Attract" application. Simply, it is a "picture" of water with leaves and rocks within it (a lot like Microsoft Surface Lagoon, included in the Surface Touch Pack). By touching the screen, users can create ripples in the water, much like a real stream. Additionally, the pressure of touch alters the size of the ripple created, and objects placed into the water create a barrier that ripples bounce off, just as they would in real life.


PixelSense is a technology used in newer Surface devices. It allows recognition of fingers, hands, and objects that are placed on the screen, enabling vision-based interaction without the use of cameras. Sensors in the individual pixels in the display register what is touching the screen.

A step-by-step look at how PixelSense works:

  1. An object is placed on the display
  2. An infrared back light illuminates the object (through the optical sheets, LCD and protection glass)
  3. Light reflected back from the object is registered by the sensors integrated in the pixels
  4. Values reported from all of the sensors are used to create a picture of what is on the display
  5. The picture is analyzed using image processing techniques creating a corrected image
  6. The corrected sensor image and information about the objects placed on the display are sent to the PC



Surface is a 30-inch (76 cm) display in a table-like form factor, 22 inches (56 cm) high, 21 inches (53 cm) deep, and 42 inches (107 cm) wide.[15] The Surface tabletop is acrylic, and its interior frame is powder-coated steel. The software platform runs on a custom version of Windows Vista and has wired Ethernet 10/100, wireless 802.11 b/g, and Bluetooth 2.0 connectivity.[15] Surface applications are written using either Windows Presentation Foundation or Microsoft XNA technology.[16]

At Microsoft's MSDN Conference, Bill Gates told developers of "Maximum" setup the Microsoft Surface was going to have:

  • Intel Core 2 Quad Xeon "Woodcrest" @ 2.66 GHz with a custom motherboard form factor about the size of two ATX motherboards.
  • 4GB DDR2-1066 RAM
  • 1TB 7200RPM Hard Drive

The discontinued (as of 6 January 2011) commercially available version had the following specifications[17]:

  • Intel Core 2 Duo @ 2.13 GHz
  • 2GB DDR2 RAM
  • 250GB SATA Hard Drive

Surface 2.0

Samsung's "SUR4.0 with Microsoft Surface", a third-party production of Microsoft Surface billed as "The Surface 2.0 Experience", has a 40 in (102 cm) 1080p LCD HD screen, a 2.9GHz AMD Athlon II X2 processor, a Radeon HD 6700M graphics card, and is 4 in (10 cm) thick. Microsoft Surface is now wall-mountable and running off a new more polished and refined Windows 7 GUI (now including Windows Phone 7 support).

For this version, Microsoft created a new technology called PixelSense. In this technology, the IR sensors are made part of LCD display, which allows the surface of the table to sense (or “see”) what is on top of it without using a camera.[18]

Applications development

Microsoft Surface applications can be written in Windows Presentation Foundation or XNA. The development process is much like normal Vista development, but custom WPF controls had to be created by the Surface team due to the unique interface of Surface. Developers already proficient in WPF can utilize the SDK to write Surface apps for deployments for the large hotels, casinos, and restaurants.[19]

Related Microsoft research projects

Microsoft Research has published information about a related technology dubbed SecondLight[20]. Still in the research phase[21], this project augments secondary images onto physical objects on or above the main display.

See also


  1. ^ a b AT&T First to Introduce Microsoft Surface in Retail Stores to Enhance Mobile Shopping Experience: First commercial Microsoft Surface launch to begin April 17 in select AT&T stores with expanded deployment planned throughout 2008
  2. ^ "Bumps on the road to Microsoft's Surface". C-Net. Retrieved 2007-11-08. 
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^ "Microsoft Surface Fact History". Microsoft. Retrieved 2007-05-30. 
  7. ^ Correction: “The Island” did NOT feature a Surface - istartedsomething
  8. ^ "Look What's Surfacing at Microsoft" (Press release). Microsoft. 2007-05-29. Retrieved 2007-05-30. 
  9. ^ "Microsoft Launches New Product Category: Surface Computing Comes to Life in Restaurants, Hotels, Retail Locations and Casino Resorts" (Press release). Microsoft. 2007-05-29. Retrieved 2007-05-30. 
  10. ^ Microsoft Surface Now in AT&T Stores
  11. ^ Harrah’s Entertainment Launches Microsoft Surface at Rio iBar, Providing Guests With Innovative and Immersive New Entertainment Experiences
  12. ^ Disney's Innoventions Dream Home is a Big Ad For Microsoft and HP...But I Still Want It
  13. ^ Sheraton Hotels & Resorts Transforms the Hotel Lobby Experience With Microsoft Surface
  14. ^ "Microsoft Surface brings computing to the table". Retrieved 2007-05-30. 
  15. ^ a b c "Microsoft Surface Fact Sheet". Microsoft. Retrieved 2007-05-30. 
  16. ^ "Development Frameworks". Microsoft. Retrieved 2008-05-15. 
  17. ^ Product Data Sheet
  18. ^
  19. ^ What lurks below Microsoft's Surface? A brief Q&A with Microsoft
  20. ^
  21. ^ Clearing up the confusion on future Microsoft Surface

External links

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