First demoed at CES in 2008, Microsoft's Surface started as an idea for making it easier to interact with information, pictures, video, and other content. Imagine a touchscreen interface developed for a large display and you're just getting started. What makes Surface different from your typical touchscreens is that it integrates a full screen image scanning technology so that the device can "see" whatever you place on it. The result has the potential to radically alter the way people interact with technology, and Microsoft and Samsung have put together a couple of videos that show some of what is possible.

At the core of the technology is the object recognition capabilities, and Samsung is using a new type of touch screen technology that called Sensors in Pixel (SIP). The display basically has an infrared camera behind the LCD that allows it to "see" when objects are placed on the screen. Microsoft's Surface software keeps track of all of the objects on the screen and then passes this information along to the actual Surface applications, so ultimately it's up to the software to determine what to do with the screen interactions. That's obviously the biggest hurdle to clear, as we've seen with other new interactive technologies (e.g. Nintendo Wii, Sony Move, and Xbox Kinect all have varying levels of success depending on the particular app you're using).

It's one thing to demonstrate a closed, limited functionality concept and another entirely to deliver on the product, but Microsoft's Surface is now very close to shipping with the Samsung SUR40. This is definitely not a product for the casual home user, as the entry price is north of $8000, but if it can gain traction in the enterprise sector and developers get behind the platform, long-term Surface's Natural User Interface (NUI) could replace the GUI as we currently know it and pave the way for sci-fi scenes from Minority Report and the like turning into real-world products.

While we can't really say much about how the product will end up being used, we can at least shed some light on the hardware specifications. The SUR40 will be available as either a standalone display or with a tabletop unit with stand (the latter being pictured above). Most of the new technology comes from the display, and the rest is pretty much PC hardware selected for use with the display. Here are the detailed specs.

Samsung SUR40 Specifications Overview
Display 40” FullHD 1080p (1920x1080)
Multi-Touch with >50 point of contact
1:1000 Contrast Ratio
300 cd/m2 Max Brightness
Gorilla Glass
CPU AMD Athlon X2 245e (dual-core, 2.9GHz, 2MB L2, 45nm, 45W)
GPU AMD Radeon HD 6750 1GB GDDR5
HDD 320GB / 7200RPM
A/V Connectivity HDMI In
Stereo RCA
(2) 3.5mm audio jacks
Communications Gigabit Ethernet
I/O Ports 4 USB, SD Card Reader
Operating System Embedded Windows 7 Professional 64-bit
Operating Temp. Max ambient 30C
System Management Tools DMFT DASH Support
Weight – with stand legs 70.0 kg / 154 lbs.
Weight – standalone 39.5 kg / 87 lbs.
Pricing $8400 MSRP for display only (Preorder)
$9049 MSRP for display with stand (Preorder)

The CPU and GPU hardware is obviously getting outdated compared to modern desktops, but the hardware has been in development for several years and the software is obviously going to be the bigger factor in whether Surface can succeed. With a customized Windows 7 Embedded OS and the right optimizations, the X2 245e combined with the HD 6750 GPU should be plenty fast--after all, we're looking at roughly 5-10 times more CPU performance compared to current dual-core ARM A9 solutions (based on a quick Sunspider run and a look at MIPS), and rougly two orders of magnitude faster GPU performance. Most of the cost is obviously in the R&D elements, plus the new display technology.

If you're looking for new ways to make your business stand out, or if you just have a ton of money and want to hang a bunch of multi-touch displays around your home, the Samsung SUR40 is expected to ship to customers in January 2012. I suspect we'll also see some interesting demonstrations at the next CES.

Source: Samsung Marketing

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  • magreen - Friday, November 18, 2011 - link

    They really think 40" with 1920x1080 is going to look good?

    Photos will look like junk on that. That's about 55 dpi.
  • cfaalm - Friday, November 18, 2011 - link

    Agreed. It couldn't be useful in our office in its current form. It needs to be something like 8 x an average 19" screen in pixels, perhaps somewhat bigger pixels, to be really useful. That's what I'd call a paperless office.

    The only problem is that working on a big screen continuously would do away with the relief of reading something of a piece of paper at sometime. You have to really be careful with working times. I think this is how it will be in offices in 10 years or so. Hope they have upgraded the hardware by then :D For now it's not too shabby.
  • Solandri - Friday, November 18, 2011 - link

    Eyestrain from continuously reading off a monitor is caused by improper room lighting or monitor settings. If the monitor is too bright or dim relative to the ambient lighting, it causes eyestrain.

    Paper doesn't suffer from this because being a reflective surface, it automatically adjusts its brightness to match anything from a dim room to direct sunlight. A monitor needs to be adjusted to match the lighting.

    Once you do match it, the monitor can be indistinguishable from paper.
  • Stahn Aileron - Saturday, November 19, 2011 - link

    And what do you think the even 60" HDTVs run at? No one really complains about that, do they? I've seen typical photos and images at that screen res and screen size. It's not that bad if the panel is of decent quality. I've ran output from my PC to my 40" Sony flat panel (Full HD/1080p) and it looks fine, even close up (about the same distances you would expect to be if it were orients and used the same way as a Surface).

    Considering the target market and usage model (plus the asking price), I'm pretty sure neither Microsoft nor Samsung would skimp on the panel quality.

    I think your perception is biased a bit due to using PC monitors all the time. Even I need to keep reminding myself of factors like that to help make sure what I'm thinking is based on as much objective logic as possible.
  • magreen - Saturday, November 19, 2011 - link

    Oh come on, people are watching one image on an HDTV at a time, from a distance. So you see one picture stretched across the whole screen. That's fine.

    But this thing is being marketed as a workspace to manipulate many images, such as photos that are only 6" across.

    Do you know how many pixels a 4"x6" image will get on that screen? 220 x 330, or 0.07 MP.

    What were you saying again about objective logic?
  • UMADBRO - Monday, November 21, 2011 - link

  • davehillier - Friday, November 18, 2011 - link

    Embedded Windows 7 Professional 63-bit sounds like a point further back than I was anticipating :)
  • JarredWalton - Friday, November 18, 2011 - link

    LOL... funny thing is that it was a copy/paste of the table from Samsung's press release. I did edit other items in the table but missed that one -- unless there's some strange new 63-bit movement going on?
  • magreen - Friday, November 18, 2011 - link

    eh, numbers over 127 are overrated
  • BrianTho2010 - Friday, November 18, 2011 - link

    63 bit... For a split second I thought it might not be a typo, but instead MSFT screwing around with ppl.

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