Microsoft Courier concepts move foward ... on the Surface

Microsoft Courier concepts move foward ... on the Surface

Summary: Microsoft researchers seem intent on keeping hope alive on the Courier front with the Manual Deskerity project. There is a new white paper out about the project, which will be presented at a conference in New York City this week.

SHARE:
TOPICS: Microsoft, CXO
30

It has been months since Microsoft officials admitted that the company had decided to nix its dual-screen Courier tablet PC, but I still get mail from disappointed users who are hoping against hope that Microsoft might resurrect the concept.

Microsoft researchers seem intent on keeping hope alive on the Courier front with the Manual Deskerity project. Manual Deskerity -- a project Microsoft shared a bit of information about back in May of this year -- is focused on ways of using touch and pen/stylus in concert to create 'new tools' for gestures and manipulation on Surface tabletops. Among these "new tools" are capabilities like being able to "cut" an image (like an Xacto knife), "staple" images together, "stamp" images to copy them, creating "tape curves," etc.

(Manual Deskerity is a pun on "Manual Dexterity" - "in the context of shuffling papers and content on a 'digital desk' in our case," the researchers noted.)

The Courier concept videos that leaked last year showed examples of how users would be able to use both touch and pen to manipulate objects, organize photos and notes and take advantage of new gestures to more quickly and easily get stuff done. A number of Microsoft watchers noted that at least some of those Courier capabilities seem to have evolved from the Microsoft Research InkSeine project.

One of InkSeine's lead researchers, Ken Hinckley, is involved in the Manual Deskerity project. So are Microsoft's futurist-in-residence Bill Buxton and Andy Wilson, the researcher who spearheaded the PlayTable (Surface) and, more recently, LightSpace.

Microsoft execs are going to be talking about Manual Deskerity the week of October 3 at the ACM Symposium on User Interface Software and Technology in New York City. The Manual Deskerity team just published a white paper about their work. There are some interesting tidbits that elaborate on the short video demo of the technology that Microsoft posted a few months back. From the white paper:

"Despite rapture with the iPhone (and now iPad), multi-touch is not the whole story. Every modality, including touch, is best for something and worst for something else. The tasks demanded of knowledge workers are rich and highly varied, and as such one device cannot suit all tasks equally well. One’s finger is no more suited for signing a contract, or drawing a sketch on a napkin, than is a pen for turning the page of a book, or holding your place in a manuscript. With the addition of the pen, user interfaces afford creation of new ideas, rather than unbounded consumption of content produced by others."

(The white paper does mention Courier in its introduction, but the footnote pointing to it goes to the Wikipedia Courier entry, not anything on Microsoft's own Web site, sadly.)

Buxton has said publicly that Microsoft's goal is to turn the Surface tabletop into thinner, more affordable/portable form factors within three years. But that still doesn't mean that Manual Deskerity will be available on a new tablet/slate near you any time soon. The pen used in the demos is a custom-made IR-emitting pen, and there are no development tools that accommodate the use of pen and touch simultaneously on existing PCs, smartphones or slates.

As the researchers note in their white paper conclusion:

"It remains to prove that our approach scales from a demo to a full-blown application, nor have we yet demonstrated how these rich techniques enhance the effectiveness and user experience of less glamorous applications, such as working with a spread-sheet. We believe that they can and will, but that is a long-shot from actually doing so. As well, despite our hopes and projections as to how well these techniques will work on other form factors, the fact remains that we have not yet done those tests. There is still work to do."

Matt Buchanan wondered aloud on Gizmodo last week whether Microsoft might end up bringing some of the functionality of the Courier to other slate/PC/phone form factors, including those made by other vendors. These kinds of touch/pen gestures and tools could find a home there, but only if Microsoft decides to bring this technology forward and outside of its own ecosystem....

Topics: Microsoft, CXO

About

Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Talkback

30 comments
Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Meta-vaporware

    Courier never-was, and the only Surface I've ever seen was neglected in an almost empty Microsoft store. Their own people admit they don't know if the concept "scales from a demo to a full-blown application", and the Kin showed that MS has problems executing even when they [b]do[/b] have a full-blown product. The fact is that Microsoft hasn't had a win with a mobile device in [i]years[/i], so let's see if WP7 can get any traction with handset buyers before we put much thought it what what they might do in three years.
    matthew_maurice
    • RE: Microsoft Courier concepts move foward ... on the Surface

      @matthew_maurice
      it's not necessary to equate everything with a hardware product. Just because Apple is a more device-centric company doesn't mean MS has to be as well. MS has always been a software company first. Secondly, Microsoft Research (just like R&D groups in other companies), work on tons of stuff. Not everything is supposed to be developed into a product for consumers. MS never said that Surface was a full-blown tool, it was supposed to be a cool showpiece for the stores.
      reverseswing
      • RE: Microsoft Courier concepts move foward ... on the Surface

        @reverseswing Post <a href=http://www.livevideo.com/goodvion>Buy Amoxicillin From Mexico</a>, <a href=http://www.livevideo.com/amoxilbuy>Order Amoxicillin Overnight</a>, <a href=http://www.livevideo.com/amoxilbuynow>Buy Amoxil Online No Prescription</a>, <a href=http://www.livevideo.com/amoxilorder>Buy Amoxicillin No Prescription Needed</a>,
        goodvion
      • RE: Microsoft Courier concepts move foward ... on the Surface

        I agree touch alone may not always be enough, but a stylus/pen has always been available if needed, try not to be so obnoxious as some of the Google or Apple fanboys can be, you only make yourself look<a <div href="http://thefabmarquee.com/"><font color="light&amp;height"> home</font></a> of google update <a <div href="http://www.emadistpierre.com/"><font color="light&amp;height">site</font></a> compare with linux <a <div href="http://www.kevinspencellc.com/"><font color="light&amp;height">contact site</font></a> from another big company <a <div href="http://www.fowpl.com/"><font color="light&amp;height">website</font></a> which upgrade always <a <div href="http://www.bluestepsblog.com/"><font color="light&amp;height">home page</font></a> is the best bad
        musdahi
    • RE: Microsoft Courier concepts move foward ... on the Surface

      @matthew_maurice Surface was not vaporware, and even the iPhone has in it work pionereed by Bill Buxton. That said, it would be better if Microsoft were faster in coming with products based on their research labs (I, for one, greatly enjoy creating photosynths and using the Silverlight pivot viewer - great products generated by the Research Labs)
      Roque Mocan
    • RE: Microsoft Courier concepts move foward ... on the Surface

      @matthew_maurice

      Please Matthew, run to your advertising (Google) or repackaging (Apple) company for your consumer goods, but try and realise that research has to be done by someone, if only so Apple and Google can rip it off.

      Touch has very limited use. It's fine for a low resolution interaction with close, small surfaces, but it's useless for text editing and programming, graphics and wanting to sit comfortably away from a large screen. It also promises to incrtease the spread of disease, if more of those filthy iToys are handed around.

      Kinect (ooh another MS research product) offers another modality where the computer does the hard work and you just move around. Couple this with glasses with a head up display and you have computing anywhere that could also overlay on reality.

      At some stage I'm sure we'll be talking about three dimensional thought-controlled holograms as so last year.

      The point is, we aint there yet as regards the ultimate UI and only company's like MS that do research, rather than just marketing, are going to light the way.
      tonymcs@...
      • RE: Microsoft Courier concepts move foward ... on the Surface

        @tonymcs@...<br><br>Considering that Apple's R&D budget is in the bilions, and their in-house generated patent portfolio dwarfs MS's, one wonders what your point is, other than to give concrete demonstration to your ignorance.<br><br>"Touch has very limited use. It's fine for a low resolution interaction with close, small surfaces"<br><br>Please explain how resolution is even remotely relevant. It's not.<br>Nor is display size. What IS relevant is size of interaction elements. Another area where iOS shines.<br><br>"but it's useless for text editing and programming, graphics and wanting to sit comfortably away from a large screen. It also promises to incrtease the spread of disease, if more of those filthy iToys are handed around."<br><br>Useless for graphics?!? What do you call wacom tablets?!?

        "It also promises to incrtease the spread of disease, if more of those filthy iToys are handed around."

        Care to cite a SINGLE study "promising" this? Your contention is not only biologically absurd, it is also logically invalid.
        DeusXMachina
      • RE: Microsoft Courier concepts move foward ... on the Surface

        @tonymcs@... <br><br>You may have missed the fact that a stylus pen has always been available from the beginning for the iPod Touch/iPhone/iPad for around $5 if my memory serves me well.<br><br>I agree touch alone may not always be enough, but a stylus/pen has always been available if needed, try not to be so obnoxious as some of the Google or Apple fanboys can be, you only make yourself look bad -<br><br>"Despite rapture with the iPhone (and now iPad), multi-touch is not the whole story. Every modality, including touch, is best for something and worst for something else. The tasks demanded of knowledge workers are rich and highly varied, and as such one device cannot suit all tasks equally well. Ones finger is no more suited for signing a contract, or drawing a sketch on a napkin, than is a pen for turning the page of a book, or holding your place in a manuscript. With the addition of the pen, user interfaces afford creation of new ideas, rather than unbounded consumption of content produced by others."
        Deanbar
    • RE: Microsoft Courier concepts move foward ... on the Surface

      @matthew_maurice I would welcome a Windows tablet with open arms (pun intentional). I believe this move is to get Windows everywhere so they can expand out on their hardware. Also, could be for new models of phones coming out using an ARM chip. Whatever the case may be, this is great for the computing industry, the more platforms that Microsoft can get Windows on the better off the computing industry will be. <a href="http://www.arabaoyunlarimiz.gen.tr/kiz-oyunlari/friv-3.html">friv</a>
      Arabalar
    • RE: Microsoft Courier concepts move foward ... on the Surface

      @matthew_maurice Hello, This is really good. <a href="http://www.protopage.com/order-cipro-online">Order generic cipro</a> I like the way you constructed <a href="http://www.protopage.com/buy-diflucan-150-mg">buy cheap diflucan </a> your words. Well done and keep it up! Thank you for <a href="http://www.protopage.com/buy-clomid-online">buy clomid without prescription</a> this and God bless you! <img border="0" src="http://www.cnet.com/i/mb/emoticons/happy.gif" alt="happy">
      John1880
  • Just kill it off and put us out of your misery

    Seriously, nobody gives a good crap about the mythical "Courier". It was a stupid idea that never should've seen the light of day.

    While the rest of the world seems to have come to the realization that we all want uncomplicated, clean, streamlined products that are intuitive and easy-to-use; Microsoft just plods along building huge, clunky, bloated shit, or, worse yet, crap for which there really isn't a market...for example the Kin.

    It's like we're screaming into Microsoft's ear: "Hey, you assholes, build us a thin, small, easy-to-use tablet and we'll buy it!", and what they hear is: "Hey, Microsoft, build me a dual-screen tablet that let's me do a bunch of useless things that I'll never need; and make sure that you give names to each feature that don't really desribe what it does. And, while you're at it, fill the thing full of bloatware that gives me six months of free anti-virus or PC Doctor."
    trickytom3
    • RE: Microsoft Courier concepts move foward ... on the Surface

      @trickytom3 seems like you have NEVER actually seen what the courier is... It's not meant to compete with ANY apple products (maybe), but rather it is unique since it is well designed as a digital notebook (yes, an actual NOTEBOOK) to take down notes and all that... If you say "nobody gives a good crap about the mythical "Courier"" then you must have been under a cave or been trolling too much on the internet. Lot's of people who has seen it are very impressed with it and has seen an actual use for it and would actually buy it over the iPad for what it's intended use was. If you don't see a use for it, I and LOTS OF OTHER PEOPLE DO. So NEVER say it is useless.

      Yes, I might be putting this beside apple and it's products, but that's because most people do especially trolls. SO I just made it easy to comprehend for you.

      And about the bloatware, it isn't Microsoft's fault. It's the distributors and Manufacturers who put the OS in their hardware who puts those bloatware NOT Microsoft. Please do your research.
      zaghy2zy
      • Microsoft Disagrees With You...

        @zaghy2zy

        Apparently, even Microsoft doesn't share your faith in the Courier; because they killed it off.

        To say that "lots" of people would buy it simply because you read a bunch of Internet posts is a ridiculous statement. You don't have any data on price, specs, carrier...you're just dreaming up some vaporware that never exisited and never will.

        As to bloatware, I'm not only talking about programs loaded by carriers and resellers, I'm talking about Microsoft program features, as well; Microsoft Word, for example, is one of the most complicated, over-featured word-processors every sold. People want simplicity and intuitiveness...and Microsoft sucks at it.
        trickytom3
      • RE: Microsoft Courier concepts move foward ... on the Surface

        @trickytom3

        Yes, Microsoft Disagrees with me and the rest which is completely stupid. Yes, we're dreaming of a vaporware but is that bad? Not at all.

        By "over-featured" maybe you mean too much features that you actually use.... Yes, maybe, but not everyone uses Microsoft Word (or such products) the way you want it to be. Out of maybe 100% of all Microsoft Word features, I probably only use 10%... But is that bad? No. I still use other features I don't really use that much frequent for certain occasions. It's not even complicated! Why do you think people still buy it if it's "bloated" and "complicated"? I don't even see any competing product to Microsoft Word that comes close to how excellent it is. I've used (I did say USED not TRIED, so take note of that) OpenOffice, iWork, and other alternatives. But, nothing compares to how Microsoft Word is much superior to them. Microsoft Word is the de facto highest standard in word-processors of where other companies set their products against.

        If don't like a product, not everyone sees it your way. So we disagree with such things because we see things differently and we use them for different things. But I don't see bashing other products worth the time since I can't make these products. I don't even see myself having a job about something like this. Now, maybe you can do better than Microsoft, I don't know.

        But, setting the whole company as a whole is wrong. There might be terrible parts of Microsoft, but there are parts of it that do great in what they do. Just like the internet. There are people on the internet that are good, while there are people who simply are terrible at it. And by that, I don't mean how they use it, but rather the attitude they show on the internet.

        So what ever your view is, I respect it. I don't really see you changing to see what I see, but I just wanted you to know my opinion and what I know.
        zaghy2zy
      • RE: Microsoft Courier concepts move foward ... on the Surface

        @zaghy2zy
        Here, here! Agree totally with thoughts on courier. Also, like your advice on doing research. Great!
        eargasm
      • RE: Microsoft Courier concepts move foward ... on the Surface

        @zaghy2zy<br><br>"Lot's of people who has seen it are very impressed with it and has seen an actual use for it and would actually buy it over the iPad for what it's intended use was."<br><br>Lot's[sic] of people?!? Really?!?<br>The number of people who have seen the Courier is exactly zero. It was never an actual product. EVER.<br>It was not even a mockup. It existed only as an animation of concepts, many of them mutually exclusive, such that they could not have been implemented that way IRL.<br>MS couldn't even be bothered to use a realistic human hand in the demo animations, just a white silhouette. That that was not enough to cue you in is telling. Unless you are claiming that MS hired Casper the ghost as a hand model.<br><br>And "Lot's"? C'mon now, apostrophes are not ornamentation. They have an actual function. (And only one function at that, to denote missing letters in a word. Period.)
        DeusXMachina
  • The thing about MS Surface ...

    ... is that a lot of the apps don't need to interact with real world objects for them to work well. MS Surface minus its expensive camera system, delivers now, a huge amount of innovation. A first tier system could have no scanning system by default. Users could optionally plug in a range of scanners (e.g. handheld) and other peripherals into Surface computers, to interact with real world objects. A second tier system could come standard with a camera based scanning system on the side; and the current system with integrated cameras could be regarded as the third tier system. The Surface team needs to do something now to make its system take off. Afterwards, a lot of these technologies can be integrated into to the platform, as soon as they are ready. But really, stop talking about Surface so much, and show us systems that are commercially viable.
    P. Douglas
  • RE: Microsoft Courier concepts move foward ... on the Surface

    Spelling error - does anyone see it?
    unhappyuser
  • Deskterity, not

    ..."deskerity." Yes, there is indeed a typo throughout the article. Obviously, the name comes from "Desk" + "Dexterity" = "Deskterity", and some posts remind me of what someone once said: "Criticism is the art of finding reasons to not admire." I like this technology, definitely!
    Gruffydd
  • RE: Microsoft Courier concepts move foward ... on the Surface

    I don't understand why everyone is so "down" on microsoft. I personally think that it is great that they have these units in their business that experiment, take chances, try new things, etc. Not everything they try has to eventually be released as a product. And just because they try something and isn't released as a product doesn't mean the technology won't show up somewhere else. And sometimes it takes time (in some cases many years) for an idea to go from paper to reality. I love technology and I love dreaming about the possible products down the line when I hear about things Microsoft, google, and others are playing with right now, and yes, I sometimes wish I could go out and buy some of those things today. But it's awesome knowing that some of that stuff will show up down the road when you least expect it.
    mgrubb@...