Slideshow

In pictures: Microsoft's Surface launches in Australia

Microsoft has launched its multitouch table in Australia

  • Kim Wisniewski, systems engineer at Curtin University in Western Australia, talks about the opportunities for using the Surface in education. According to Wisniewski, Surface will enable students to collaborate on projects without having to crowd around the screen of a desktop PC.

  • Microsoft today officially announced the availability of its touch-screen Surface table computer in Australia. Four people can use the Surface table simultaneously to play games, organise holidays or view and edit photos, for example. The display accepts up to 52 simultaneous points of touch; more than enough for a four-player board game.

  • Michael Kordahi, "developer evangelist" at Microsoft Australia, demos some of the apps that take advantage of the Surface's capabilities. Wine Bar, allows customers to order wine and food directly from their table. Once a particular wine is ordered, users can place a glass on the table use it to move the information displayed; users can access information about the wine, including food pairings and region details.

  • Robbie Bach, President of the Entertainment and Devices Division at Microsoft, talks about the system. Bach said that Surface is "fully multi-user" and that it isn't about the technology but about making the experience "totally natural."

    The Surface uses a "natural user interface" that won't require users to learn something completely new.

  • The ANZ Surface application was demoed at this year's Australian Open, providing tennis statistics and relevant information.

  • Shane Morris, a user interface designer for Automatic Studio, explains that Surface can mediate relations between a customer and a business. For Morris, an area with a lot of potential is financial planning — users will be able to visualise their finances and collaborate with a financial planner on a large screen.

  • Kordahi shows off the Lonely Planet app, which will be heading to the travel guide's flagship stores over the coming months. You will be able to place any Lonely Planet guide on the table and bring up photos, videos and relevant information. Placing your Lonely Planet pass onto the table lets you transfer your chosen photos, videos and locations into the pass. All data is stored in the cloud, so once you head home, opening up the Lonely Planet Web site will let you access all that information again through a Silverlight-enabled browser.

  • Software developer nsquared is one of Microsoft's first partners for the Surface in Australia. It is currently developing a number of applications designed to promote and enhance education.

  • ANZ's Surface application for the 2010 Australian Open.

  • Developer Amnesia Razorfish has developed a software platform that enables you to print a Surface-compatible signature onto the back of a business card. These business cards, once placed on the table, will bring up data, such as social networking information.

  • The hardware is, surprisingly, little more than a standard PC. Microsoft only offers one configuration, which uses a 2.13GHz Intel Core 2 Duo CPU with 2GB of DDR2 memory and about 250GB of storage. An ATI X1650 graphics card runs a 30in DLP projected display at a resolution of 1024x768 pixels. There are host of output and input connections, including six USB ports (the demo unit had a Bluetooth module connected) as well as RGB and component video outputs.

    You can cobble together a similar specced machine for about $1000, though you won't get the multitouch or object identification capabilities. For that, you'll need to pay $21,000.

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