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 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.