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If our love of Surface is an addiction, then a recent delivery in the mail is an enabler.

Lu Silverstein IdentityMine, Inc.posted by Lu Silverstein

We recently received the latest Microsoft Surface treasure chest, which is full of small, smooth, clear plastic objects. What’s so special about the treasure? The objects are tagged with clear, invisible-to-the-naked-eye codes that unlock a unique function when placed on the Surface. Take that scratch-and-win lotto!

Microsoft Surface Items received by IdentityMine, Inc.

The contents of our "Treasure Chest"

I was on the original Surface team (back when they called it Play Table), so  I've seen similar objects for over 6 years in one form or another. We developed spaceships with plungers that fired photons at each other; a pager that vibrated when a virtual pinball ‘bumped’ into it; even visors that allowed one user to see the computer screen but no one else. One of my favorite projects included two radio controlled tanks on the Surface (one was controlled by a local user and the other by a remote user).  The tanks left tracks on the screen, shot missiles, and interacted with both virtual and physical barriers like ponds, walls, and craters.

The awesome gaming scenarios are only limited by your imagination. The recent delivery of this Surface treasure chest has us worked up all over again. But is there more to Surface than games?

Here’s the challenge - even people who love the Surface concept struggle to see a business application. IdentityMine is still looking for 'da bomb' application.   the design and business community to leverage Unique Object Recognition in surface computing to produce a disruptive and highly profitable user experience (UX) that works commercially.

Developers have chalked their challenge up to the limited install-base of hardware, but we don’t buy it.  The applications that the original Play Table team built were innovative enough to  inspire Robbie Bach and Bill Gates to invest in it year after year.  We are confident that Surface has the power to be a very big deal.

With the Microsoft model, there needs to be a sponsor outside of Microsoft.  A Microsoft sponsor  creates the right  applications and experiences to integrate into their business, along with demonstrated market demand that is in alignment with Microsoft’s target audience. This  takes a significant financial investment (in the order of millions - not thousands.)

Close up of Microsoft Surface Object received by IdentityMine, Inc.

A closer look at a Surface Item

Can you imagine an application and scenario that is so compelling that someone is willing to invest millions in making this a reality?  Leave your ideas in the comments - play fair and be nice (as always).  We're hoping to create a dialogue about this great technology. So let 'er rip.

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3 Responses to “Games Only Scratch the Surface – A Challenge for Developers”

  1. Lynn Marentette

    I was hoping to see a few comments to your blog post! I shared some of my thoughts related to this topic two years ago on a blog post:

    Interactive Touch-Screen Technology, Participatory Design, and “Getting It”

    If you haven’t discovered the NUI Group or Spark on communities, take a look. You’ll find like-minded people in those groups:

    I have lots of ideas for tabletop computing apps, but no time or resources to devote to fleshing out my ideas at the moment.

  2. Daniel Iregui

    Can those Surface Items be printed some how, and if so how much information can you put on them?

    Can we think that I could somehow print the pixel data of 100 pictures, put the object in my pocket and show the pics to my friend on his Surface?

  3. Lu

    You can print the tags, but you can’t store much data in the tag…they are similar to a UPC bar code (the bar code you see on every consumer product). But for explanation sake, there are two types of Surface tags. An 8 bit tag and a 128 bit tag. The key difference is the physical size and the number of unique numbers which can be assigned – the 8 bit tags are approximately 3/4 inches square and the 128 bit tags are about 1 1/4 inches square. An 8 bit tag can have 256 unique tags created. Not a lot considering there around 110 million households in the US alone. But a 128 bit tag can have approximately 3.4×10^38 tags. So, it’s more about how many unique IDs you can create rather than the data which is stored.

    One way to make your scenario work is to leverage the fact that most computing devices, including Surface, are connected devices today. The unique ID can be paired with content stored on the web (aka cloud service). For example, the way you’d solve for pulling up 100 pictures from one printed tag is to have the tag be placed on the Surface, the Surface recognizes the ID number and calls the web service which then associates the unique ID with your pictures stored on a server. And voila, a tag can magically ‘store’ lots of pictures, videos, or anything you can access on the web. All that can be made a reality by pairing and manipulating the right technologies together to provide simple and magical experience.


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