Look, ma, FOUR HANDS! Microsoft bigs up pixeltastic TWO-USER mega-screen

It's PPI! Not the payment claims blokes, our touchy pixel tech

Microsoft is getting ready to big up very large-screen systems sporting multi-touch tech it bought in 2012.

Stephen Elop, the former Microsoft-exec-turned-Nokia-CEO-turned-Microsoft exec, reportedly told Australians his old/new employer is about to start ramping up production.

Microsoft's devices group executive vice president said the company is gearing up to "mass produce" Perceptive Pixel Inc (PPI) large, white-board screens. Elop runs Microsoft's Nokia phones, Surface and Perceptive Pixel products and Xbox hardware.

Microsoft bought PPI in July 2012.

The company produced 27-, 55- and 82-inch touchscreen displays capable of multi-touch input - meaning being able to work with more than one person or pair of hands.

Most mainstream touch-technology, like that on an Apple or Windows tablet, is single touch.

It takes specialised algorithms and processing plus screen technology to recognise and accept an execute input from more than one person at the same time.

PPI shot to fame during the 2008 US presidential election campaign, when PPI walls were used by CNN anchors as an aid to present maps, data and graphics.

The company was handed a National Design Award by the Smithsonian in 2009 while PPI's multi-touch systems have been used in government, defence and education.

Microsoft's Office division president, Kurt DelBene, said at the time PPI's large, touch-screen displays combined with OEM hardware would "become powerful Windows-8-based PCs."

This would be Microsoft's second stab at big, multi-touch systems. Microsoft's first foray was with what today is called PixelSense, but started life as Surface in 2007.

Surface lost the band name to the Surface tablet, though, and was stuck with the lumpier PixelSense.

Systems featured a 30-inch, rear-projection display using PC and IR cameras to detect inputs, were built with Samsung and employed a version of Windows Vista and then Windows 7. The system excited developers and found niche uptake in all the obvious places – education and in the entertainment and hospitality sectors – but to date has not been a big seller.

The first machines were monstrous - more oak coffee table than touch screen, at up to 22 inches thick - as was the price, starting at $10,000.

Presumably, Microsoft is hoping to ring something easier on both the back and the budget to install with PPI. Chances are, it'll remain niche.®




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