You may never have heard of the Microsoft Surface, and the chances are you’ve never seen one in action. If you have then you’ve got one up on me. However, it’s been revealed that the Surface 2, dubbed SecondLight, is currently in development, and features a new realm of interaction.
Microsoft Surface is the very cool, very expensive multi-touch device that combines touch and gesture computing into a tabletop. Think Minority Report for real and you’re getting there. The original Surface has only been available since April, 2008, and is really only available to partner companies. The companies include AT&T which has them in some stores, and hotel resorts and restaurants which allow customers to use them to place orders or plan excursions.
Rather than try to explain how it works, it’s easier for me to direct you to watch this video demonstration of the Microsoft Surface in action. When watching this, I can’t help thinking it looks and feels like a giant Apple iPhone.
As cool as this device already is, Microsoft isn’t sitting back and watching the plaudits roll in. Instead, it’s reportedly developing a second-generation Surface device, which adds a new layer of user interaction. According to TechRadar, Erik Klimczak, Creative Director at Clarity Consulting, revealed the news at a recent South By South West panel.
First will likely come a new version of the existing model, which adds high-definition cameras into the mix. Klimczak believes this will be available “within a year.” But Joe Olsen, CEO of design firm Phenomblue, then revealed what he’d heard about the next-generation of Microsoft Surface, currently codenamed SecondLight.
That’s in R&D right now, and they haven’t even got to the point where they’ve figured out how to commercialize it yet. I asked the same question and I got ‘two to three years before anything would happen’. Now, things have come out a lot sooner than that before but it’s definitely still in the R&D stage.
It’s a Surface table with another camera inside it that kind of projects through the first screen onto something else, so you can put a layer of transparency over the top of it and get a different graphical image on top of that. It has also got some infrared capabilities of that extend the interaction area by about a foot by three foot off the table so you can actually make gestures in the air.
This all sounds futuristic, but it’s happening right now. The idea of interacting with computers in this totally organic way appeals to me greatly but I’m sure it’ll be a while until the technology becomes mainstream and affordable enough that we’ll all have one in our house. Having said that, the iPhone proves it’s possible on a smaller scale.