Every time when we talk about how to design the Multi-touch user interface, we will talk about iPhone/iPad sooner or later. We seem to lose sight of another great product utilizing Multi-touch technologies most of the time.

What is Microsoft Surface

Microsoft Surface is a surface computing platform that responds to natural hand gestures and real world objects. 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.

Actually I believe that many people have seen the advertising video of Microsoft Surface. I was deeply impressed by the large scale screen, multi-touch technology, intelligent recognition of real objects and the changes of the way how human interacts with computer brought by those technologies.

Though it was not widely used by personals due to its early stage, I found Microsoft already made a fantastic preparation for all of the designers and developers who want to have a deep look at Surface.

What’s the key capabilities of Microsoft Surface
  • Direct interaction. Users can grab digital information with their hands and interact with content on-screen by touch and gesture – without using a mouse or keyboard.
  • Multi-user experience. The large, horizontal, 30 inch display makes it easy for several people to gather and interact together with Microsoft Surface - providing a collaborative, face-to-face computing experience.
  • Multi-touch. Microsoft Surface responds to many points of contact simultaneously - not just from one finger, as with a typical touch screen, but from dozens of contact points at once.
  • Object recognition. Users can place physical objects on the screen to trigger different types of digital responses – providing for a multitude of applications and the transfer of digital content to mobile devices.
How to Build the development environment of Microsoft Surface

Where is the Surface ? It’s in the AT&T retail store at USA, though you can use it for free, it seems a little bit distant.

Maybe it’s a good way to establish a platform for experiencing in your own computer. If your operating system is Windows Vista or Windows 7, then you are ready to go.

Surface applications can be written in Windows Presentation Foundation or XNA. The development process is much like normal Vista development, but custom WPF controls had to be created by the Surface team due to the unique interface of Surface. Developers already proficient in WPF can utilize the SDK to write Surface apps for deployments for the large hotels, casinos, and restaurants.

It only requires you to install the following 3 softwares to simulate the Microsoft Surface :

1.Visual C# 2008 Express    
2. XNA Framework Redistributable 2.0    
3. Surface SDK 1.0 SP1 Workstation Edition

You can find the Microsoft Surface Simulator in the SDK toolkit, which provides the software simulating tool for multi-touch. Even though you don’t have the touch screen, you can still operate the Surface-based application indirectly, please see the following picture:

Cool applications built for Surface

Desktop games

Online paying 

It is possible that Surface will relate all the objects around us one day and change our life.

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