First demoed at CES in 2008, Microsoft's Surface started as an idea for making it easier to interact with information, pictures, video, and other content. Imagine a touchscreen interface developed for a large display and you're just getting started. What makes Surface different from your typical touchscreens is that it integrates a full screen image scanning technology so that the device can "see" whatever you place on it. The result has the potential to radically alter the way people interact with technology, and Microsoft and Samsung have put together a couple of videos that show some of what is possible.



At the core of the technology is the object recognition capabilities, and Samsung is using a new type of touch screen technology that called Sensors in Pixel (SIP). The display basically has an infrared camera behind the LCD that allows it to "see" when objects are placed on the screen. Microsoft's Surface software keeps track of all of the objects on the screen and then passes this information along to the actual Surface applications, so ultimately it's up to the software to determine what to do with the screen interactions. That's obviously the biggest hurdle to clear, as we've seen with other new interactive technologies (e.g. Nintendo Wii, Sony Move, and Xbox Kinect all have varying levels of success depending on the particular app you're using).

It's one thing to demonstrate a closed, limited functionality concept and another entirely to deliver on the product, but Microsoft's Surface is now very close to shipping with the Samsung SUR40. This is definitely not a product for the casual home user, as the entry price is north of $8000, but if it can gain traction in the enterprise sector and developers get behind the platform, long-term Surface's Natural User Interface (NUI) could replace the GUI as we currently know it and pave the way for sci-fi scenes from Minority Report and the like turning into real-world products.

While we can't really say much about how the product will end up being used, we can at least shed some light on the hardware specifications. The SUR40 will be available as either a standalone display or with a tabletop unit with stand (the latter being pictured above). Most of the new technology comes from the display, and the rest is pretty much PC hardware selected for use with the display. Here are the detailed specs.

Samsung SUR40 Specifications Overview
Display 40” FullHD 1080p (1920x1080)
Multi-Touch with >50 point of contact
1:1000 Contrast Ratio
300 cd/m2 Max Brightness
Gorilla Glass
CPU AMD Athlon X2 245e (dual-core, 2.9GHz, 2MB L2, 45nm, 45W)
GPU AMD Radeon HD 6750 1GB GDDR5
RAM 4GB DDR3
HDD 320GB / 7200RPM
A/V Connectivity HDMI In
HDMI Out
Stereo RCA
SPDIF
(2) 3.5mm audio jacks
Communications Gigabit Ethernet
802.11n
Bluetooth
I/O Ports 4 USB, SD Card Reader
Operating System Embedded Windows 7 Professional 64-bit
Operating Temp. Max ambient 30C
System Management Tools DMFT DASH Support
Weight – with stand legs 70.0 kg / 154 lbs.
Weight – standalone 39.5 kg / 87 lbs.
Pricing $8400 MSRP for display only (Preorder)
$9049 MSRP for display with stand (Preorder)

The CPU and GPU hardware is obviously getting outdated compared to modern desktops, but the hardware has been in development for several years and the software is obviously going to be the bigger factor in whether Surface can succeed. With a customized Windows 7 Embedded OS and the right optimizations, the X2 245e combined with the HD 6750 GPU should be plenty fast--after all, we're looking at roughly 5-10 times more CPU performance compared to current dual-core ARM A9 solutions (based on a quick Sunspider run and a look at MIPS), and rougly two orders of magnitude faster GPU performance. Most of the cost is obviously in the R&D elements, plus the new display technology.

If you're looking for new ways to make your business stand out, or if you just have a ton of money and want to hang a bunch of multi-touch displays around your home, the Samsung SUR40 is expected to ship to customers in January 2012. I suspect we'll also see some interesting demonstrations at the next CES.

Source: Samsung Marketing

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  • theknuppu - Friday, November 18, 2011 - link

    After testing this gadget for about a week now I have to say its no good. First of all, after unboxing it smelled like a mixture of Surströmming and my good ol' socks after a 20 mile walk through the Serengeti. The tech itself is quite on par with the sanitary installations developed during the 3rd Ming Dynasty. Finally the level of fun I had using this is like eating a half eaten one week old Liquorice Wheel that I found behind my desk. Sorry folks, but last night I even heard my toilet seat saying that my own back surface is more pleasant than this one. Reply
  • Urbanmech - Friday, November 18, 2011 - link

    How about you say what you didn't like about it, not just a bunch of random comparisons to stuff that doesn't make sense.

    So you dont like the Surface because it smells bad?
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Friday, November 18, 2011 - link

    I'm not saying Surface is good, but I'd wager pretty heavily that he hasn't actually done anything with it. The demo videos are a joke of course, but long-term we could certainly see some cool apps made for Surface. Initially, I'd expect very little to make it useful; it's up to the companies that buy this to make that happen. Reply
  • juhatus - Monday, November 21, 2011 - link

    Didnt some university do a warhammer for it already?

    Would be great with pen&paper rpg's and figure based ones.... D&D ftw :)
    Reply
  • Mumrik - Friday, November 18, 2011 - link

    40" and 1920x1080 sounds absolutely horrible for computer-like use at an arms reach.

    Also, with the low end PC inside this thing that touch interface must be really really expensive... Or they're full of it.
    Reply

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