The Surface Table is where it all began. The Surface brand wasn’t always meant to be; it was initially, only one product – the Surface.
Surface was just a touchscreen set up to be a table – a table that did things no other table could; it was, however, more of a proof of concept rather than an actual product – despite Microsoft selling it as a product at a whopping $10,000.
The Surface table was eventually renamed to Surface PixelSense, to make room for other devices under the Surface brand. We all know what happened to the Surface brand after that.
The PixelSense, however, failed to take off – price being one of its primary problems. Now, a new Microsoft patent describes a cheaper way to get the same result – it’s called “INTERACTIVE INTEGRATED DISPLAY AND PROCESSING DEVICE” (yeah it’s all caps) and tries to use a project in place of the touchscreen.
It’s not the first time someone has tried to replace touchscreens with projectors – it’s not as difficult as it may sound; projectors are also incredibly cheap for what they can deliver in terms of the size of a display – the cost-per-inch ratio is much better on the projector side.
One problem, though – a projector cannot work as a touchscreen would, by itself; so the patent also describes an IR depth sensor and a camera, along with a PC working together to drive the whole set up.
Microsoft has all the tools
The requirement of an IR depth sensor and a camera is not a lot to ask for; Microsoft already builds one of the best and most affordable IR depth sensors out there – the Kinect for Xbox, which also has a camera built into it.
The setup this patent describes can be built by anyone with the right tools – and it would be a lot cheaper than the $12,000 Surface Hub. PixelSense is discontinued, of course, but the lowest it got to was $8,400.
However, as it is with every patent – it’s only a patent, and there are no promises to be made about any such product coming to a production release anytime soon.
You can read more about the patent and the intricacies of the set up over here.