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Microsoft waves in Minority Report-style computing era

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Microsoft launched Surface Computing last night, and with a new computing paradigm - the table-top.

Surface Computing allows users to interact by waving their hands around. The technology, which Redmond has been working on for last five years, has been top secret until now.

The basic premise is a PC built into a coffee table with a 30-inch back projected screen as the table-top.

The clever bit is a set of IR cameras (also mounted inside the table) which detect when anything touches the surface, and support multi-touch interfacing, so fingers can be used to drag things around and anything placed on the surface can be detected.

By attaching something "similar to a barcode", the cameras can recognise and identify anything - such as allowing a digital camera to be identified when placed on the table, and that action could trigger a Bluetooth link to download the photographs for display on the Surface.

At between $5,000 and $10,000 a pop, Microsoft isn't planning to sell Surface Computing into the home right now - hospitality and retail spaces will come first, with T-Mobile and Caesars Palace signed up as early adopters, due to receive their first Surface Computing devices at the end of 2007.

This isn't the first time such a device has been proposed, or built, but Microsoft is claiming to be "the first major technology company to bring surface computing to market in a commercially ready product".

There are some great videos of people waving their hands at tables on the new Surface Computing website. ®

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