The Microsoft coffee-table computer (contd)

David Pogue is underwhelmed

This new “surface computer,” as Microsoft calls it, has a multi-touch screen. You can use two fingers or even more — for example, you can drag two corners of a photograph outward to zoom in on it. Here’s an article in yesterday’s Times about it.

If this is all sounding creepily familiar, it is probably because so far, all of this is exactly what NYU researcher Jeff Han has been demonstrating for a year and a half now. I’ve written about it several times on my Pogue’s Posts blog…

And he callously destroys my illusions about the device. (I loved the way the table sucked images out of a Canon IXUS.)

Microsoft’s version of the multi-touch computer adds one very cool, though impractical, twist: interaction with other electronics.

For example, in Microsoft’s demonstration, you can take some pictures. When you set the camera down on the table top, the fresh photos come pouring out of it into a virtual puddle on the screen — a slick, visual way to indicate that you’ve just downloaded them.

Next, you can set a cellphone down on the table — and copy photos into it just by dragging them into the cellphone’s zone.

Then you can buy songs from a virtual music store and drag them directly into a Zune music player that you’ve placed on the glass.

How cool is all of this? Very. Unfortunately, at this point, it’s the Microsoft version of a concept car; you can ogle it, but you can’t have it. These stunts require concept cameras, concept cellphones and concept music players that have been rigged to interact with the surface computer.

Wonder if that’s accurate. I’m sure there are compact digital cameras that are wi-fi enabled.

Hmmm… Just checking…

Yep. Nikon do one. And Canon do a Digital IXUS Wireless model. So the demonstration could have been done with a bog-standard IXUS.

Hah! I was right — see this admiring video from Popular Mechanics: