Skip to Content

Your Coffee Table as a Computer

Microsoft has announced a touch-screen table that interacts with gadgets placed on its surface.

Today Microsoft unveiled a new addition to computing: a coffee table that doubles as a computer for viewing photos, videos, maps, or Web pages, for instance. The electronic furniture, called Microsoft Surface, lets users manipulating these objects directly with their fingers–to resize a picture or rotate it so that someone across the table can look at it.

The table’s surface is a multitouch screen, which means that it can accommodate the input from a number of different points of contact at once, not unlike Apple’s forthcoming iPhone.

Surface is also similar to technology created by a startup called Perceptive Pixel, founded by Jeff Han, a researcher at New York University. (See “Touch Screens for Many Fingers.”)

Microsoft’s technology distinguishes itself from that of other touch screens by wirelessly interacting with gadgets on the tabletop. The table is optimized to accommodate up to 52 points of contact, which could mean, for example, all the fingers on 4 people’s hands and 12 devices sitting on the surface. A user can set her camera on the tabletop, and cameras inside the table’s thick base will detect its presence (as well as the presence of other objects and fingers). Then software that leverages Bluetooth short-range wireless signals uploads the pictures from the user’s camera to the tabletop screen. The user can flip, crop, resize, and organize the pictures using her fingers. To transfer a picture to another device on the table, such as a cell phone, she simply flicks the photos toward the gadget. This Popular Mechanics video offers a nice demonstration of the table in action.

The tables are expected to appear in hotels, casinos, and retail stores by the end of this year.

Keep Reading

Most Popular

A Roomba recorded a woman on the toilet. How did screenshots end up on Facebook?

Robot vacuum companies say your images are safe, but a sprawling global supply chain for data from our devices creates risk.

A startup says it’s begun releasing particles into the atmosphere, in an effort to tweak the climate

Make Sunsets is already attempting to earn revenue for geoengineering, a move likely to provoke widespread criticism.

10 Breakthrough Technologies 2023

Every year, we pick the 10 technologies that matter the most right now. We look for advances that will have a big impact on our lives and break down why they matter.

These exclusive satellite images show that Saudi Arabia’s sci-fi megacity is well underway

Weirdly, any recent work on The Line doesn’t show up on Google Maps. But we got the images anyway.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.