Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Next Step in Computing Surfaces

Remember the Microsoft Surface I talked about way back in November? Looks like it's being used in AT&T stores now, and has the potential to be useful in many other collaborative scenarios, like in hotel lobbies. But if you really think about it, there is one flaw with the table-top design.

If you have several people working at the same Surface, somebody's going to be sitting in what pretty much amounts to a "Master Control" spot, while others may end up getting upside down views of the current data. Or, if everyone can see a right-side-up view of their data, then things could get pretty darned jumbled looking.

The solution?

Why, use a sphere instead of a plane!

And that's exactly what Microsoft is working on. The obvious applications involve mapping, but even being able to send data to the "other side" of the sphere to make collaboration a bit easier on the eyes is pretty appealing. I'm sure there are some other innovative interfaces possible to make certain tasks easier with this new sphere surface; we just need some ultra-creative folks to think of them.


Puraz said...

Very neat.. I didn't know spherical displays existed.. but it's not really a round LCD, rather it's a projection from the inside.. am I right?

One problem with this technology is when people are collaborating, we usually like to point at things. Therefore working on two opposite sides of the sphere would be a pain.. and because of the round nature of the display, there is only so much viewing angle if everyone crowds around one side.

As for the table top view.. maybe some sort of polarization could allow both sides of the table to view the right side up image? I know this has problems of it's own, but just an idea that I had!

Gail said...

Yes, the image is projected onto the sphere from the inside. I actually don't think the table is necessarily bad in all cases, and definitely the sphere idea isn't going to be ideal always, either. It would be really fun to try both paradigms out for a real application for some length of time.

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