Microsoft Surface (codename Milan) is a multi-touch product from Microsoft which is developed as a software and hardware combination technology that allows a user, or multiple users, to manipulate digital content by the use of gesture recognition. This could involve the motion of hands or physical objects. It was announced on May 29, 2007 at D5 conference. As of March 2009, Microsoft had 120 partners in 11 countries that are developing applications for Surface’s interface. On January 6, 2011, Microsoft previewed the latest version of Microsoft Surface at Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2011, simply named Microsoft Surface 2.0, which was built in partnership with Samsung.

It has a 360-degree user interface, a 30 in (76 cm) reflective surface with a XGA DLP projector underneath the surface which projects an image onto its underside, while five cameras in the machine’s housing record reflections of infrared light from objects and human fingertips on the surface. The surface is capable of object recognition, object/finger orientation recognition and tracking, and is multi-touch and is multi-user. Users can interact with the machine by touching or dragging their fingertips and objects such as paintbrushes across the screen, or by placing and moving placed objects. This paradigm of interaction with computers is known as a Natural User Interface (NUI).

The Surface has been optimized to respond to 52 touches at a time. During a demonstration with a reporter, Mark Bolger, the Surface Computing group’s marketing director, “dipped” his finger in an on-screen paint palette, then dragged it across the screen to draw a smiley face. Then he used all 10 fingers at once to give the face a full head of hair.

Using the specially-designed barcode-style “Surface tags” on objects, Microsoft Surface can offer a variety of features, for example automatically offering additional wine choices tailored to the dinner being eaten based on the type of wine set on the Surface, or in conjunction with a password, offering user authentication.


Microsoft notes four main components being important in Surface’s interface: direct interaction, multi-touch contact, a multi-user experience, and object recognition.

Direct interaction refers to the user’s ability to simply reach out and touch the interface of an application in order to interact with it, without the need for a mouse or keyboard. Multi-touch contact refers to the ability to have multiple contact points with an interface, unlike with a mouse, where there is only one cursor. Multi-user is a benefit of multi-touch—several people can orient themselves on different sides of the surface to interact with an application simultaneously. Object recognition refers to the device’s ability to recognize the presence and orientation of tagged objects placed on top of it.

The technology allows non-digital objects to be used as input devices. In one example, a normal paint brush was used to create a digital painting in the software. This is made possible by the fact that, in using cameras for input, the system does not rely on restrictive properties required of conventional touchscreen or touchpad devices such as the capacitance, electrical resistance, or temperature of the tool used (see Touchscreen).

The computer’s “vision” is created by a near-infrared, 850-nanometer-wavelength LED light source aimed at the surface. When an object touches the tabletop, the light is reflected to multiple infrared cameras with a net resolution of 1024 x 768, allowing it to sense, and react to items touching the tabletop. Surface will ship with basic applications, including photos, music, virtual concierge, and games, that can be customized for the customers.

A unique feature that comes preinstalled with Surface is the pond effect “Attract” application. Simply, it is a “picture” of water with leaves and rocks within it (a lot like a screen saver used in Windows XP or Vista). By touching the screen, users can create ripples in the water, much like a real stream. Additionally, the pressure of touch alters the size of the ripple created, and objects placed into the water create a barrier that ripples bounce off, just as they would in real life.



Surface is a 30-inch (76 cm) display in a table-like form factor, 22 inches (56 cm) high, 21 inches (53 cm) deep, and 42 inches (107 cm) wide. The Surface tabletop is acrylic, and its interior frame is powder-coated steel. The software platform runs on a custom version of Windows Vista and has wired Ethernet 10/100, wireless 802.11 b/g, and Bluetooth 2.0 connectivity. Surface applications are written using either Windows Presentation Foundation or Microsoft XNA technology.

At Microsoft’s MSDN Conference, Bill Gates told developers of “Maximum” setup the Microsoft Surface was going to have:

  • Intel Core Quad Xeon “Woodcrest” @ 2.66 GHz with a custom motherboard form factor about the size of two ATX motherboards.
  • 4GB DDR2-1066 RAM
  • 1TB 7200RPM Hard Drive

The discontinued (as of 6 January 2011) commercially available version had the following specifications:

  • Intel Core 2 Duo @ 2.13 GHz
  • 2GB DDR2 RAM
  • 250GB SATA Hard Drive

Surface 2.0

Samsung’s “SUR4.0 with Microsoft Surface”, a third-party production of Microsoft Surface dubbed as “The Surface 2.0 Experience” has a 40 in (102 cm) 1080p LCD HD screen, 2.9GHz AMD Athlon II X2 processor, and Radeon HD 6700M. Microsoft Surface is now wall-mountable and running off a new more polished, refined, Windows 7 GUI (now including Windows Phone 7 support).

For this version Microsoft created a new technology called PixelSense. In this technology the IR sensors are made part of LCD display, which allows the surface of the table to sense, or “see,” what is on top of it without using a camera.

Posted by

Bala Aditya (MGIT- ECE 3rd year)


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