While Microsoft always brings out the Surfaces for their conferences, my strongest memory of the interactive coffee table happened at BlogHer09 with the Surface in the wild at the Sheraton. (Have I mentioned how sad I am that I’m missing BlogHer10 because I’ll be in final prep for my big move?)
I was preparing to leave the conference when Ed introduced her parents to the Tile game on the surface. It’s a 1-6 player game that involves group like-colored tiles together to clear them from your pie slice / send a bomb to your opponents, while destroying bombs before they hit your stack of blocks. And that’s the entire game. However, it’s damn addicting, as others can attest. In fact, I got quite antsy waiting for Ed’s family to declare themselves done, so I could make my bus. Which could be the real reason why this sticks out to me, but still, it’s cause of that game!
I stopped by the Surface booth at WPC10 with Israel Arribas (Spain)and Steve Markovitch (US), where we had a casual conversation while Steve played with the Surface for the first time. (He loved it, btw.)
The Surface was originally developed as a multi-user in-home gaming device. While there are now some very advanced applications built for the device, the Surface team still finds people who will sit at it for incredibly long periods of time playing the Tile game. One of the new demos is a space game that takes more strategy. We all had to be walked through it.
Last year, Darren shared with me the insurance on moving these things is incredibly high (since the price is so high). However, they are surprisingly durable. There have been some that have broken during transit, but in these cases it was clear they weren’t handled “fragiley”. In one case, they appeared as though they had been stacked about three high and had taken a tumble. The thing still functioned, but there was a nice crack down the center of the screen. As it is a big investment, Microsoft has worked with a Partner to create a screen protector that is used for high risk/usage areas such as casinos and bars.
The one thing that got me during our conversation was the point these things are hard to use in direct sunlight. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that customers would want to place this collaborative device in a bright spot. People love to bask in sunlight. (I mean, c’mon, we need that Vitamin D to keep up our good moods.) However, they cannot replace the projector with an LED screen because that would block the very cameras that read what is touching the screen.
There is an updated version that will be coming out at some point in the future, but the only info divulged was the screen will be skinner and the computer will be more like the width of a hand rather than the whole base. If the price is also able to come down, I think that’d help encourage Partners to create new applications. Although they offered a ton of information on the Surface to Partners last year, I haven’t noticed a big increase in general interest, and I’ve just assumed it’s due to the fact that only companies with a big budget afford to purchase them.
But hey, I can comprehend saving up for Kinect to navigate through my movies and video chat using my TV, so I’m good to go. (Gaming, what?)