It’s been quite the wait since Microsoft introduced its first commercial example of surface computing, but at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show, the company upped the ante by unveiling Microsoft Surface 2.0.
And by any standards, the second generation of Microsoft Surface is a massive upgrade compared to its predecessor.
As you can see in the image at the top of this article, Microsoft Surface 2.0 is no longer a tabletop computer. Although it can certainly act as one, it can now be mounted both horizontally as well as vertically.
The product no longer features Windows Vista, but a computer running Windows 7 instead, which makes perfect sense, since there was no real reason for the software giant to stick with Windows Xp’s successor.
At the same time, Surface 2.0 no longer sports a bulky design, as the Redmond company has swapped the old box for a new form factor which is just four inches thick.
This was possible because Surface no longer requires video cameras in order to enable its multi-touch, gesture and object recognition natural user interface (NUI) interaction model.
Instead, the new generation of Microsoft Surface leverages a new technology dubbed PixelSense that enables thin LCD screens to “see.” There are no camera in this product.
“If you want to see an example of really extreme integration on Windows 7, you have to look no further than the brand-new version of Microsoft Surface. Microsoft Surface has announced today, this is a brand-new version,” revealed Michael Angiulo, Corporate Vice President, Windows Planning, Hardware & PC Ecosystem.
Angiulo noted that Microsoft has partnered with Samsung to build Surface 2.0. The collaboration between the two companies has produced the Samsung SUR40 for Microsoft Surface, which sports the same features, capabilities and attributes as the original version of the software giant’s surface computer.
“The first thing you notice is that the PC is thin. No longer is it a big box with the cameras inside. This is only four inches thin. Inside here there's a full-power Windows 7 PC. It's got a dual-core CPU, and a GPU from AMD. Up top, this is the biggest piece of gorilla glass that has ever been bonded to an LCD ever,” he added.
Surface 2.0 will offer the same experiences as its predecessor, including object recognition and massive multi-touch contact.
However, thanks to the new PixelSense, the computer can now recognize fingers, hands, and objects as soon as they’re placed on the screen. Microsoft explains that this capability allows for vision-based interaction, even in the context in which no cameras are present.
The plan is to make Samsung SUR40 available in 23 countries around the world in 2011, with customers such as Bull, Royal Bank of Canada, Microsoft stores, etc. already looking to offer new experiences to customers via Surface 2.0.
“But what's really amazing about this technology, what really makes it magical, is the sensor itself. So, those first-generation Surface PCs needed cameras underneath that would look up to try to see what was going on. But what we have here is called PixelSense.
“PixelSense is new technology we've invented where there's infrared sensors all across this screen. Every single pixel is actually acting as a camera. The PC, the Surface here, can actually see,” Angiulo said.