A Computing Future from Microsoft: Large and Cheap Displays

Chris Pratley, the head of Microsoft’s Office Labs, gave the PICNIC audience a peek into the future they envision when planning their products. What is that future? It was encapsulated in the above video that they made a year ago. Some of the technologies (Augmented Reality and realtime language translation for example) have already come to the fruition (and they are going to need to make a new video soon before it all happens).

An initial viewing of the video shows that Chris and his team (and Microsoft in general) are concerned with screens of all sizes – from 10-foot wallscreen to 2-inch boarding passes. In all of these displays they imagine that the screen is also the interface. How will the current interfaces scale? For larger ones there is a concern for how to keep the controls near the user. For smaller ones there is no room for controls. The screens will be maneuvered by making the back touch sensitive (called Nanotouch). One of the key Microsoft researchers in this area is Patrick Baudisch.

These interfaces are possible now. I have played with Nanotouch devices at MSR — some no larger than a 50 cent piece. And not only are the larger displays possible, they will potentially be cheap. The picture below is a new MSR project that shows one method for creating large scale screens cheaply. It uses a pico projector that is the size of the phone and a specially cut piece of plexiglass. The image below shows a display that is only ~2 feet tall, but you can imagine this working at 10 feet. Chris stated that the size of the display is bounded by the projector’s brightness and that pico projector brightness is doubling every 9 months. In the future cameras can be added to allow for gestures on the interface.

ms large screen

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  • bowerbird

    video title says this is the vision for 2019 — 10 years out.

    long time away. so i’ll take that with a very large grain of salt.

    -bowerbird

  • David

    brilliant

  • http://www.liammcmullen.com liam

    it will be with us a lot sooner than 10 years.

  • http://www.genomicon.com Nick Taylor

    Well, having spent most of the day battling with getting CSS to work in the risible farce that is the Microsoft Browser…

    … I’d say, yea… that’ll be fine – so long as it’s not running Microsoft software

  • bowerbird

    liam said:
    > it will be with us a lot sooner than 10 years.

    it’s “with us” today. it’s the “cheap” part that is a fantasy.

    “cheap is coming”, people always say, “…within 5 years.”

    except the problem is that they’ve been giving that “5 year”
    estimate for 15 years now, so the rhetoric is getting boring,
    except for noobs who don’t realize how they’re being played.

    and perhaps you don’t know that it’s a long-standing joke
    when bill gates predicts something within this time-frame;
    sites that collect these misfires have been up for some time.

    -bowerbird