It looks like Microsoft has finally figured out how to turn its table-sized multi-touch Surface computer into a more portable experience.
Microsoft is planning to demonstrate this week at its employee-only Microsoft Research showcase in Redmond a project it is calling the "Mobile Surface." (Microsoft is briefing a few select press on some of its TechFest projects before the event begins. I wasn't briefed; I just found the link for this while trolling around on the Microsoft Research site.)
"Our goal is to bring Microsoft Surface experience to mobile scenarios, and more importantly, to enable 3D interaction with mobile devices. We do research on how to transform any surface (e.g., a coffee table or a piece of paper) to Mobile Surface with a mobile device and a camera-projector system. Besides this, our work also includes how to get 3D object model in real-time, augmented reality and multiple-layer 3D information presentation."
Microsoft has been working on a variety of Surface-like projects, including the rumored "Oahu" multi-touch table (which would be smaller and cheaper than the Surface) and the Courier book-style tablet. Courier is thought to be in the incubation phase at this point, although the final product may look little like the screen shots and video images that leaked last fall. Last I heard, Courier is unlikely to debut in commercial form until 2011 at the earliest.
Natural user interface (NUI) technology, in general,is going to be a big emphasis at TechFest, based on some of the early information coming from Microsoft's briefings.
One project I haven't yet seen mentioned (but which I found on Microsoft's Research site as one of its TechFest 2010 demos) marries NUIs, tablets and touch. That effort, known as "Project Gustav," is an "immersive digital painting" research project, as Microsoft's Web site describes it. More on Gustav from the Microsoft site:
"The natural interface makes Project Gustav ideal for hobbyists and professional artists alike. Project Gustav achieves a high level of interactivity and realism by leveraging the computing power of modern GPUs, taking full advantage of multitouch and tablet input technology and our novel, natural media-modeling and brush-simulation algorithms."
Stay tuned for more TechFest 2010 coverage from afar....
Update: I thought the whole Mobile Surface concept sounded kind of familiar. It probably has its roots in the Microsoft Research "PlayAnywhere" project on which developers have been working since some time before 2007. (PlayTable, which is related to PlayAnywhere, evolved to become Microsoft's Surface.)