Surface Computing Breakthrough

Imagine using your hand to actually “grab” data from a computer or placing your phone on a computer service, automatically triggering a download of your messages. These are just some of the possibilities that may become reality with a new technology called surface computing.

Surface computing is being debuted at the All Things Digital conference under the name Project Milan, by Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. It is the very first in a complete line of surface computing products that actually recognize physical objects that some in contact with the screen, such as a phone, a credit card or even a paintbrush.

Surface computing allows for actual hands-on manipulation of data, with seemingly direct control of screen objects, such as photographs, maps, music and more. Surface computing is different from touch screen computing in that incorporates multi-touch instead of single touch. You can use all of your fingers, for example, and use natural gestures to convey your input. It will also recognize, connect and interact with physical objects using wireless technology. Very exciting!

Don’t look for surface computing to come into the home right away, though. Microsoft will initially be targeting businesses with the new technology, such as in the form of ?“interactive desks” for hotels, restaurants, retail stores and other venues for public shopping and entertainment. Harrah’s Entertainment and Starwood Casinos are two of the enterprises that are ready to advantage of surface computing. The price tag for this technology? At least $10,000.

When things settle down to the point where debut and manufacturing costs are less, we may see more personal applications of the surface computing arise. Being able to interact with your content by touch and gesture should appeal to a wide range of computer users, especially gamers, where a whole new generation of video games could emerge.

I wonder if the technology can be incorporated into a video game system, where multiple players enter input at the same time–a sort of souped up, real-time version of what the Wii is attempting to accomplish with its funky game controller.

What do you think? Are you looking forward to seeing surface computing?

Mary Ann Romans also writes for the Frugal Living Blog here at, where she shares money saving tips for today’s families.

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About Mary Ann Romans

Mary Ann Romans is a freelance writer, online content manager, wife and mother of three children. She lives in Pennsylvania in the middle of the woods but close enough to Target and Home Depot. The author of many magazine, newspaper and online articles, Mary Ann enjoys writing about almost any subject. "Writing gives me the opportunity to both learn interesting information, and to interact with wonderful people." Mary Ann has written more than 5,000 blogs for since she started back in December 2006. Contact her at maromans AT or visit her personal blog