Compute surfaces of various kinds have been experimented with for many years now. A few years back, for instance, Microsoft was demoing a projection system that would allow you to interact with the surface of a kitchen counter. Features included measurement and recipes for food preparation.
Today's announcement of the Surface Computer by Microsoft, however, takes the demos way beyond what has been shown previously. The various ways that physical objects can interact with the surface, as well as the gestural interface, are really mind-bending. Microsoft is positioning the product for commercial applications because of price (in excess of $10,000 initially), but what about gaming, educational and media applications? What about small versions of the surface compute platform mounted vertically as interactive picture frames and displays? What about social networking applications built into the surface computer (think bars and clubs…)?
Another (much smaller) player who might be thinking about compute surfaces is the team at BumpTop. Their approach of blending physics with the desktop might add a very nice touch of realism to Microsoft's surface computer.
What we see today is just the beginning.