CHRIS ON RAILS

a personal weblog of everything nice

Microsoft Surface – seriously frickin’ cool May 30, 2007

Filed under: Microsoft,Technology — allyouneediscourage @ 9:52 pm

Microsoft Surface logo

At midnight yesterday, Microsoft announced a breakthrough product which has been in development for a long time.  I learned about this story at around 4am today, and I have been seeing videos and finding out more since then.  We’ve seen the technology demonstrated in the Apple Iphone, but Microsoft has taken it in a new direction.  This seriously is one of the coolest products I’ve ever seen and a real glimpse into the future of technology.

First let me say something about ubiquitous computing.  It is a model of HCI or Human Computer Interaction in which computers are integrated into everyday objects and activities.  I learned about this in a college class but I think Wikipedia defines it best.

Ubiquitous computing – as opposed to the desktop paradigm, in which a single user consciously engages a single device for a specialized purpose, someone “using” ubiquitous computing engages many computational devices and systems simultaneously, in the course of ordinary activities, and may not necessarily even be aware that they are doing so.

This concept is related to this product because Microsoft Surface has huge potential for so many applications.

So…what is it?  In a nutshell, Microsoft Surface is basically a touchscreen coffee table that will change the world.  It represents a fundamental change in user interactivity with digital media.

It uses multi touch technology which has had history dating back to 1982 and was mostly recently and notably seen in the Apple Iphone.  There are four main components in the interface, direct interaction, multi-touch contact, a multi-user experience, and object recognition.  You may have also seen this technology from Perceptive Pixel which was launched by NYU professor Jeff Han.  “I firmly believe that in the near future, we will have wallpaper displays in every hallway, in every desk. Every surface will be a point of interaction with a computer,” Han says, “and for that to happen, we really need interfaces like this.”

Below are 4 pictures I’ve selected from the press release.

Microsoft SurfaceMicrosoft Surface interactionMicrosoft Surface in restaurantsMicrosoft Surface compares devices

Three of the coolest things I’ve seen so far is…

You can put a camera onto the Surface and images will instantly display.  Then put a phone onto the Surface and drag images to the phone.  You will have successfully transferred images without plugging in any wires.

You can place a debit/credit card onto the Surface and everyone can pay individually for their meals with no hassle.

It recognizes food and drinks!  (Of course some stuff will need barcodes or RFID)

There are so many things that the Microsoft Surface can do, it’s mind boggling.  Of course it will take some time before devices communicate so seamlessly, and it will take even more time before the general public will fully adopt this technology.

This technology in the context of ubiquitous computing means that soon you’ll see this all over the modern home.  For example, your kitchen counter or wall might have something like this and you could pull up a recipe, look up the fat content of a food, or even watch animated step by step instructions for cooking.

I encourage you to view all the videos on the official website as well as behind-the-scenes videos on what the technology is all about.  Absolutely amazing.

http://www.microsoft.com/surface/ – Official site with videos demonstrating the technology

http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/features/2007/may07/05-29Surface.mspx – FAQ and official press release

http://www.popularmechanics.com/technology/industry/4217348.html – Incredible behind-the-scenes and highly informative.  Must see.

At the moment, it is for commercial application because the cost of this is not yet a feasible product for the average consumer.  Microsoft has partnered with T-Mobile, Starwood Hotels and Resorts, and Harrah’s entertainment to introduce this technology the retail and service industries by the end of 2007.   Hopefully we’ll see this in the hands of an average person very soon.

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Last.fm was bought by CBS…yet another Web 2.0 acquisition

Filed under: Business,Technology,Web 2.0 — allyouneediscourage @ 8:44 pm

Last Fm Logo

CBS Corporation has recently acquired Last.fm which is a social music site founded in the UK five years ago.  Seeing as how CBS is a huge media company and CBS radio is the largest in the United States, this is a strong partnership.

CBS is not the first to snap up Web 2.0 companies.  In 2005, News Corp paid $580 million for MySpace.  In 2006, Google paid $1.65 billion for YouTube.  These companies want to move from being content driven to audience driven.  Some people wonder why big corporations pay so much and are so eager to acquire Web 2.0 companies.  It’s all about the social revolution.  Online communities are not built overnight.  There is loyalty and a rich culture that cannot be duplicated.   Sure there might be other sites that provide the exact same service, maybe even better, but they were late to the game.  Sometimes it’s better to be first than to be good, you can always improve in version 2.  Facebook for example started out small and was regulated to colleges before becoming a huge social network.

Since I indirectly work for CBS through Simon & Schuster, so I thought this was some great news.  If anyone uses Last.fm, they now have the financial backing to be better.

What’s next?  Facebook?  Digg?  Virb?

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/6701863.stm

 

You need to see Pirates of the Carribean: At World’s End May 25, 2007

Filed under: Movies — allyouneediscourage @ 11:50 pm

This movie has the potential to break the opening of Spiderman 3 even with Shrek 3 as direct competition this weekend.  See it for Keira Knightley.  See it for Davy Jones and his Flying Dutchman crew…as completely normal as that sounds.  See it for the special effects.  See it for the sea monsters and that bastard sea monkey.  See it because the movie is so absurd only Disney could pull off something this ridiculous and call it a legitimate movie.

Case in point…

Elizabeth Swann and Captain Barbossa

Disney is the same company who released this mind boggling 1988 Emmy nominated animated film, The Brave Little Toaster which is based on a novella.  There are deep and engrossing characters such as Toaster who is brave and never gives up, Lampy who shines brightly but not very “bright” in intelligence, and even Blanky the shy and perpetually scared blanket who needs to be constantly reassured that he’s not a loser.

The Brave Little Toaster

Creators of brilliant animated features like this have nothing to worry about from competing studios.

I was talking to Spiderman earlier and he agrees with me.  True story.  Pirates will destroy Shrek 3.  Dreamworks, don’t fuck with Disney.