Microsoft Surface, in its initial version one form, was more an experiment than anything else. Designed as an interactive display that could be incorporated into things like coffee tables, it definitely was an exciting concept.
The software has now re-surfaced, ahem, in second-gen form, boasting a heap of improvements and much more stable touch technology. The result is the Samsung SUR40 table and Pocket-lint has been lucky enough to have a play with one.
Combining a full HD 40-inch display with 178-degree viewing angles, the table packs an entire PC inside it. The whole setup is powered by an 2.9GHz AMD Athlon X2 dual-core processor, 4GB of RAM and an AMD HD6750M GPU. Not hugely powerful specs then, but definitely more than enough to keep the Surface ticking along smoothly, at least from what we saw.
Surface is now aimed firmly at businesses, being largely too expensive for a consumer to afford to stick in his or her home. These Samsung displays represent the cutting edge of technology, using PixelSense to detect a possible total of 50 touch interactions at once. This means you and plenty of others can all tap away at the surface at the same time, without it slowing down. The result of this is quite a diverse feature set with which application developers can play.
Samsung had a pretty plentiful supply of applications pre-loaded on to the SUR40 table we played with. It would take us forever to go into detail of each, so we have picked out our three favourites which show off what Surface can do: Absolut, Bing and Fujifilm. The last of the three, Fuji's application, takes the SUR40 and puts it into its own custom-build table with company branding, designed to appear in photo printing shops.
With Bing, Surface can do things like pick up on specially built tags, a bit like Sony's Smart tags but without the NFC. These can then be programmed to make Bing search for specific products. Results will then appear in a small window which you can resize using pinch to zoom. You can fill the whole surface with results and do things such as play embedded video or scroll through pictures. The tags in particular can be put to use in all different ways. Red Bull, for example, had stuck them in the bottom of drinks cans which would then search for extreme sports videos should you place them on the table.
Absolut Vodka had come up with something slightly more exciting, turning the table into a touch-sensitive mixing desk - fully functional, we might add. Along the side of the desk was a list of cocktails, that changed depending on what speed the record was being played, to suit the mood. It made for quite a compelling interactive experience and something we would definitely want to see in a bar.
Finally there was Fujifilm, which was a basic photo-manipulation tool. You could build photo albums by grabbing shots from a camera and dragging them on to a page, resize them using multitouch and then send them off to be printed. We liked the custom-built table and could see how, if it were to turn up in a shop, it might persuade customers to make the extra purchase.
In the end though, Kinect is still a lot more exciting to us than Surface. Having the likes of the Xbox and Windows behind it, the software which is compatible is just much more formidable. That and it costs a whole heap less. Still expect to see the odd Surface display turning up in a shop near you soon.
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