Microsoft Launches New Product Category: Surface Computing Comes to Life in Restaurants, Hotels, Retail Locations and Casino Resorts
First commercially available surface computer from Microsoft breaks down barriers and provides effortless interaction with information using touch, natural gestures and physical objects.
Picture a surface that can recognize physical objects from a paintbrush to a cell phone and allows hands-on, direct control of content such as photos, music and maps. Yesterday at the Wall Street Journal’s D: All Things Digital conference, Microsoft Corp. CEO Steve Ballmer unveiled Microsoft Surface, the first in a new category of surface computing products from Microsoft that breaks down traditional barriers between people and technology. Surface turns an ordinary tabletop into a vibrant, dynamic surface that provides effortless interaction with all forms of digital content through natural gestures, touch and physical objects. Beginning at the end of this year, consumers will be able to interact with Surface in hotels, retail establishments, restaurants and public entertainment venues.
The intuitive user interface works without a traditional mouse or keyboard, allowing people to interact with content and information on their own or collaboratively with their friends and families, just like in the real world. Surface is a 30-inch display in a table-like form factor that small groups can use at the same time. From digital finger painting to a virtual concierge, Surface brings natural interaction to the digital world in a new and exciting way.
“With Surface, we are creating more intuitive ways for people to interact with technology,” Ballmer said. “We see this as a multibillion dollar category, and we envision a time when surface computing technologies will be pervasive, from tabletops and counters to the hallway mirror. Surface is the first step in realizing that vision.”
The Human Touch
Microsoft Surface puts people in control of their experiences with technology, making everyday tasks entertaining, enjoyable and efficient. Imagine ordering a beverage during a meal with just the tap of a finger. Imagine quickly browsing through music and dragging favorite songs onto a personal playlist by moving a finger across the screen. Imagine creating and sending a personal postcard of vacation pictures instantly to friends and family, while still wearing flip-flops.
Surface also features the ability to recognize physical objects that have identification tags similar to bar codes. This means that when a customer simply sets a wine glass on the surface of a table, a restaurant could provide them with information about the wine they’re ordering, pictures of the vineyard it came from and suggested food pairings tailored to that evening’s menu. The experience could become completely immersive, letting users access information on the wine-growing region and even look at recommended hotels and plan a trip without leaving the table.
Surface computing at Microsoft is an outgrowth of a collaborative effort between the Microsoft Hardware and Microsoft Research teams, which were struck by the opportunity to create technology that would bridge the physical and virtual worlds. What started as a high-level concept grew into a prototype and evolved to today’s market-ready product that will transform the way people shop, dine, entertain and live. It’s a major advancement that moves beyond the traditional user interface to a more natural way of interacting with information. Surface computing, which Microsoft has been working on for a number of years, features four key attributes:
- Direct interaction. Users can actually “grab” digital information with their hands, interacting with content by touch and gesture, without the use of a mouse or keyboard.
- Multi-touch. Surface computing recognizes many points of contact simultaneously, not just from one finger like a typical touch-screen, but up to dozens of items at once.
- Multi-user. The horizontal form factor makes it easy for several people to gather around surface computers together, providing a collaborative, face-to-face computing experience.
- Object recognition. Users can place physical objects on the surface to trigger different types of digital responses, including the transfer of digital content.
Surface Puts People in Control
Surface will be shipped to partners with a portfolio of basic applications, including photos, music and virtual concierge applications that can be customized to provide their customers with unique experiences. Harrah’s Entertainment Inc., Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc., and T-Mobile USA Inc. will be some of the first companies to provide unique Surface experiences for their customers. These first partners are exploring a variety of avenues for Surface, which may include the following:
- Harrah’s Entertainment. Guests at Harrah’s Entertainment’s Las Vegas properties, including Caesars Palace and the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino, can explore the wide variety of dining, entertainment, night life and gaming experiences available at its network of area casinos. Using the interactive virtual concierge in Microsoft Surface, guests can reserve tickets to an Elton John concert, review the menu at chic eatery Bradley Odgen, take a tour of the world-famous PURE nightclub, book a luxurious spa treatment or redeem Total Rewards loyalty program credits for a broad range of merchandise. The virtual concierge can directly connect users to amenities available at any of Harrah’s seven Las Vegas casinos, allowing guests to “visit” multiple venues and plan their itineraries without ever getting up from their table. “When visitors to Las Vegas choose to stay at one of our casinos, they can enjoy the amenities at all of them,” said Tim Stanley, Harrah’s chief information officer and senior vice president of innovation, gaming and IT. “Microsoft Surface is a great way to help our guests get the most out of their trips to Las Vegas by putting all the offerings and experiences we make available at their fingertips.”
- Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide. Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc. (NYSE: HOT) will initially launch Surface at Sheraton Hotels & Resorts, Starwood’s largest and most global brand. Surface will help bring interaction, connectivity and play to Sheraton hotels’ new lobby experience, currently being rolled out in key cities worldwide. To provide guests with greater service, unique experiences and entertainment, Sheraton embraced Surface as a key component of its lobby transformation. Surface will enable guests to browse and listen to music, create their own playlists, send photos home, download books, and even order food and drinks — all with the drop of a credit card or their Starwood Preferred Guest loyalty card. “We are creating new and engaging ways for our guests to connect with their passions while away from home. Microsoft Surface puts us at the forefront of technology and allows guests to interact with each other and our hotel in a revolutionary way,” said Hoyt H. Harper II, senior vice president for Sheraton.
- T-Mobile USA. Customers in T-Mobile retail stores might place different cell phones on Surface’s interactive surface where product features, prices and phone plans would appear so they could be easily compared. “We are continuously working to build the greatest retail experience we can for our customers,” said Bonita Inza, vice president of Retail at T-Mobile USA. “They tell us they want more information about our products and services, but in a way that is easily accessible, at their own pace and with the amount of detail that they prefer. Surface is one example of how we’re turning our stores into a playground where customers can comfortably explore exciting new products in their own personal way.”
Surface will also be made available through a distribution and development agreement with IGT (International Game Technology NYSE: IGT), a global company specializing in the design, development, manufacturing, distribution and sales of computerized gaming machines and systems products.
“Consumers now have an entirely new way to get the information they need, turning their everyday tasks into enjoyable and engaging experiences,” said Pete Thompson, general manager of Microsoft Surface Computing. “There are hundreds of thousands of restaurants, hotels and retail locations that are looking to give their customers the unique and memorable experiences that Surface will provide. In turn, companies have a new opportunity for generating additional revenue streams and increasing retail traffic.”
About Microsoft Surface Computing
Microsoft Surface Computing brings to life a whole new way to interact with information that engages the senses, improves collaboration and empowers consumers. By utilizing the best combination of connected software, services and hardware, Microsoft is at the forefront of developing surface computing products that push computing boundaries, deliver new experiences that break down barriers between users and technology, and provide new opportunities for companies to engage with people. More information can be found at http://www.surface.com.
Founded in 1975, Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT”) is the worldwide leader in software, services and solutions that help people and businesses realize their full potential.