Microsoft has been looking beyond the desktop for some time now, but with the launch of "Milan," the company is showing the potential for so-called "surface computing" to revolutionize everything from retail kiosks to the common coffee table.
At its core, Milan is a PC running Windows Vista, but dont expect to use it with a keyboard and mouse. Instead, Milan uses a touch-sensitive display that enables multiple users to navigate the systems interface.
Milan will start appearing in commercial locations at the end of this year (think casinos), but PC Magazine was able to sit down with Microsoft executives for a hands-on demo of the new system. The demo unit we saw looked a lot like a coffee table, but you wont want to put your feet up on this system; it was made for touching.
The flat display measures 30 inches diagonally and is designed to make it easy for multiple users to reach across and touch the screen. Images are projected onto the display via a custom DLP engine. Five infrared cameras set below the display detect contact with the display and enable users to navigate the interface.
By detecting every touch and gesture, Milan offers a very tactile way of interacting with digital information. Users must actually grab files and images with their fingers without the use of a mouse or keyboard. The system also allows multiple users to interact with the display at the same time; it can detect dozens of contact points.