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How did surface computing become mainstream?

Jan, 2021 - By WMR

How did surface computing become mainstream?

The keyboard and mouse have always been an integral part of modern computer systems. These input devices play a critical role in navigating and providing directions to the computer. However, like other electronic devices, they were due for an upgrade. The surface computer has emerged as a probable and quite convenient solution to these bulky devices. A surface computer interacts with the user via the surface of an object, unlike a keyboard and mouse. It uses a specialized computer graphical user interface (GUI), albeit by replacing conventional GUI elements with intuitive and everyday objects. The users interact directly with a touch-sensitive screen rather than using a keyboard and mouse. The concept of surface computing was first developed by Microsoft researchers Andy Wilson and Steve Bathiche back in 2001. The idea was to develop an interactive table that could understand the manipulation of physical objects. After years of R&D and the development of numerous prototypes, on May 29, 2007, the company announced the Surface computer at D5conference.

Surface computing has four major attributes, which sets it apart from other computing devices. It enables direct interaction where users can actually interact with content through gesture and touch. It also recognizes multiple points of contact, unlike a conventional touch screen. As a matter of fact, it is optimized to respond to 52 touches at the same time. Moreover, it has a horizontal platform, which makes it easy for several people to gather and use the computer in a collaborative fashion. Apart from these, it is capable of object recognition, object/finger orientation, and tracking. The surface computer employs two broad categories of surface types namely flat and non-flat. Generally, flat surface types are two-dimensional surfaces similar to tabletops and are the most common form of surface computing in commercial spaces. Microsoft’s PixelSense and iTable are the two most prominent examples of flat surface type.

Although the majority of surface computing revolves around flat surfaces, non-flat surfaces have garnered attention among researchers. The essential technology in surface computing allows non-digital objects to be used as input devices. This is made possible by using cameras for input as the system does not depend upon touchpad devices such as electrical resistance, capacitance, or temperature. Another advantage of these types of computers is their flexibility in terms of design. They are very versatile and can be used for any purpose. Traditionally, computer screens were constructed of very solid materials such as glass.

Touchscreens do not have this limitation and can be placed anywhere where a keyboard or mouse could previously be placed. This means that the surface types can allow for a much larger screen than a traditional computer screen. Some of the best modern surface computing devices have screens that are around 5.5 inches, allowing for a very sharp and crisp image that can be easily viewed on the touch screen. There are plenty of Windows 10 compatible systems with great graphical user interfaces already installed, allowing for a very interactive experience, and using a Surface Studio 2.4GHZ laptop you will not need to buy any additional software or install any drivers. That being said, surface computers are getting better with tech giants such as Apple also showing intent to incorporate it in their future iPad. Although the company founder initially was skeptical about it, the next-gen iPads will probably feature surface computing. 

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