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Hitachi Does Microsoft Surface Without the Table 110

Posted by Zonk
from the enless-variations-on-a-really-cool-theme dept.
An anonymous reader writes "According to CNET.co.uk, who randomly stumbled into a booth at CES, Toshiba has created a Microsoft Surface-type system without the unwieldy table. 'The StarBoard system is really two technologies in one. Firstly, it features Hitachi's short-throw LCD projector. This is important, because the projector sits mere inches from the interactive surface. This means you get a huge — 50-inch, in fact — bright screen, which doesn't get blocked out by your head as you lean over the table. The image it projects is incredibly high-quality too, and there was no noticeable distortion.' The video attached to the article shows the system in action." It should be noted that the implication that leaning over the table blocks a projection from above is spurious; the Surface projects an image from below. The 'overhead' setup at CES was a camera designed to show onlookers what was taking place on the table.
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Hitachi Does Microsoft Surface Without the Table

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  • by morgan_greywolf (835522) on Thursday January 17, 2008 @09:47AM (#22079616) Homepage Journal
    ICARS -- the interactive touch-screen displays seen on Star Trek: The Next Generation and later shows predicted this as far back as what? 1986 or 1987 or something? And now it's here for real.

    I see this as ideal for collaboration. Gather a bunch of people around the big screen and they can all make changes in realtime. Very nice.
    • by B3ryllium (571199) on Thursday January 17, 2008 @10:50AM (#22080182) Homepage
      LCARS, not ICARS. The "L" stands for Library.
    • Wasn't there something like this in "Hunt for Red October" as well? Like a computerized chart table.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by vegiVamp (518171)

      I may be wrong - I'm only a regular trek viewer - but I don't remember any trek, even the most recent (Enterprise) or the farthest in the future (future federation timeships in Voyager and Enterprise) that clearly had multitouch interfaces. Touchscreen, yes, but not multitouch as in the typical picture-rotate-and-resize demos we get these days.

      If those kinds of interfaces were pictured and imagined since back then, I think they'd have been implemented years back as well. Palo Alto et al were quite the innov
      • by daenris (892027) on Thursday January 17, 2008 @11:32AM (#22080716)
        While the first mass-media use may have been in Minority Report, research on multi-touch systems goes back at least to the mid-80s, and quite possibly before. http://www.billbuxton.com/multitouchOverview.html [billbuxton.com]
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by CodeBuster (516420)
        One of the interesting things about Star Trek is that the concepts frequently exceeded the ability of the set designers or the prop builders to keep up. If you get some of the coffee table books where they include some of the concept and designer notes from when say TNG, DS9, Voyager, or even Enterprise were being developed they include such items as three dimensional holographic displays, completely voice actuated systems with no buttons or control panels at all (ruled too advanced for 24th century at the
    • by Maavin (598439)
      AFAIK LCARS displays have a taktile feedback. Which is done by small forcefields...

      THAT would be news :)
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by EatHam (597465)
      And now we're supposed to just sit back and watch as we all get our arms broken by sore loser wookies? No fucking thank you, I'll stick with my monitor.
    • by master_p (608214)
      Indeed. And there is a scene, I think in Next Generation, or in DS9, in which Miles O'Brian rearranges some blocks on a screen using both hands in order to make some adjustments to the engine.
    • by zymano (581466)
      Star Trek invented everything!!!! Go watch the 'day earth stood still'.

      there's a motion sensing screen there too. I guess they invented that too!! Including robots!!!

      silly.
    • by sglines (543315)
      Yah, and I'll bet someone patented it just a couple of years ago.
  • by PietjeJantje (917584) on Thursday January 17, 2008 @09:48AM (#22079624)
    • by fbjon (692006)
      Speaking of ass, these tables are a definitive upgrade from photocopiers at office christmas parties. Just imagine the possibilities ...
  • shadows (Score:3, Insightful)

    by gEvil (beta) (945888) on Thursday January 17, 2008 @09:48AM (#22079630)
    This means you get a huge -- 50-inch, in fact -- bright screen, which doesn't get blocked out by your head as you lean over the table.

    No, but you do get big shadowhands when you use the touch surface. If they found a way to do this with two projectors, though, you'd probably be able to avoid even that (though alignment/convergence issues would be a bitch).
    • by Smidge204 (605297)
      Or do what other multitouch systems do - rear projection. The short-throw projector still has an advantage because it allows the table to be thinner.

      The only way this would be truly unique is if you combine the short-throw projector optics with those pocket-sized projectors and have the motion sensing cameras built into the same unit as well... then you would literally have a pocket-sized, large area multitouch interface that could be used on any surface.

      Does anyone know if someone's gotten multitouch input
      • Or do what other multitouch systems do - rear projection.

        Which sort of defeats the purpose of having a highly portable touch-surface system. One of the HUGE benefits of this system is that you can set it up on any conference room table and it'll work. All you need is a large flat surface. If you messed with rear projection, then you'd suddenly need to either find a big glass table, or you'd need to lug one around with the projection system.
        • by Smidge204 (605297)
          Congratulations on being able to completely avoid the second paragraph of my post.

          =Smidge=
        • Plus, all those drafting tables that were once replaced by CAD systems will once again be useful. Sort of.
        • by blincoln (592401)
          If you messed with rear projection, then you'd suddenly need to either find a big glass table, or you'd need to lug one around with the projection system.

          Use a collapsible table. It could be the modern equivalent of the roll-up movie/slide projection screens most families in the US used to have at home. The whole thing could collapse into a small-suitcase-type package, like I'm assuming the Hitachi device does.
      • The only way this would be truly unique is if you combine the short-throw projector optics with those pocket-sized projectors and have the motion sensing cameras built into the same unit as well... then you would literally have a pocket-sized, large area multitouch interface that could be used on any surface.

        You mean like the laser keyboard, [thinkgeek.com] on a larger display scale?

      • by djupedal (584558)
        "Or do what other multitouch systems do - "

        'other multitiuch...'? Tracking hand-movement has nothing to do with touch-sensitive screens or surfaces. MS Surface tracks, just as the Hitachi system. Neither has touch-coordinate capability.
        • by Smidge204 (605297)
          You're being way too pedantic.

          Given that it does not track your movements until your fingers are touching (or at least really really close to) the countertop, it's a very specific and limited tracking system. Just because the countertop itself is not actively involved in the process doesn't mean it's not touch - there is tactile feedback with this.
          =Smidge=
    • If they found a way to do this with two projectors, though, you'd probably be able to avoid even that (though alignment/convergence issues would be a bitch).

      Johnny Lee, who is actually mentioned in a post further down, did this already using low cost projectors and surfaces.

      Look at Automatic Projector Calibration on his website: http://www.cs.cmu.edu/~johnny/projects/thesis/ [cmu.edu]
  • by altoz (653655) on Thursday January 17, 2008 @09:49AM (#22079638)
    I'm just waiting for the wii guy to do the same thing for like $5
  • Instead of your head casting the shadow, your hand will? I think I'd still rather have the rear-projection in that case.
  • by Xest (935314) on Thursday January 17, 2008 @10:02AM (#22079752)
    Microsoft has done surface without the table, in fact, that's how the whole tech started off.

    See here:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xujhFInvyxo [youtube.com]

    or here:

    http://blog.makezine.com/archive/2007/03/microsoft_research_techfe.html [makezine.com]

    It's the original demonstration from where the current surface stemmed.

    A specific table isn't essential to the surface concept.
    • Microsoft also supports multi-touch, which the video doesn't mention at all - I suspect this demo did not support any kind of gesture support, or more than two simultaneous touches.
      • by sabernet (751826)
        Watch the video again. They had a picture viewer utilizing identical two handed gestures.
        • There's a big difference between allowing two inputs (one for each hand) and true multi-touch (i.e. all fingers on each hand) -- this example is the former, Surface is the latter.
    • Who made the interactive table outside the Samsung store in NYC? [youtube.com] because that appears to be basically the same tech and has been there for years.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Foresto (127767)
      Are you sure the whole tech was started off by Microsoft? I saw at least one project using this sort of tech before I had ever heard of Surface.

      http://mtg.upf.edu/reactable/ [upf.edu]
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ReacTable [wikipedia.org]
      • by Xest (935314)
        No I doubt it was to be honest, it's just that the article suggests that Toshiba has one-upped Microsoft's version by doing it without the table they used in their recent demos, but as the stuff I posted demonstrated, MS had already done this too so what Toshiba did was actually nothing MS (and likely other companies as you mention) hadn't done already.

        MS just seems to be the primary pusher of this into the mainstream market right now, I'd say that's the only real difference.
  • Microsoft Surface idea not that new? [tgdaily.com] http://www.tgdaily.com/content/view/32389/118/ [tgdaily.com]

    I just love the openness internet. If Microsoft tried this 10 to 15 years ago, they might have gotten away with it as an original idea. But it is not. Why do you think more politics have to be added to the Patent system? So Microsoft can continue to appear to be innovative when they have faked most of it all along? You don't need to spend 7.1 Billion dollars a year on R&D. Just use Google for free and cut that cost a
    • by westlake (615356)
      If Microsoft tried this 10 to 15 years ago, they might have gotten away with it as an original idea.

      Surface doesn't have to be an "original" idea, whatever that means, it only has to be the better idea, the practical implementation of the idea. Surface is software that works with the simplest and most reliable of off-the-shelf hardware. It can read tokens printed or stamped into objects like game pieces. It might be able do biometric IDs.

    • by dave420 (699308)
      If you'd actually watched video of the Surface demo, you'd see the Reactix solution is only partially similar, in that it has a digital screen you can interact with. That's where the similarity ends. Surface is projected from underneath, meaning no shadows, and can interact with devices placed on the surface, from mobile phones to cameras. Just having a projected image you can interact with is not the same as MS's Surface. It's not even close. It would help your cause if you got your facts right before
    • by kellyb9 (954229)
      Was it a multi-touch interface? Probably not. This technology is fairly new. From what I understand, Apple licensed their technology from MIT to create their iPhone. This is what really sets these new surface computers apart from what has been done in the past. For example, being able to expand picture using two fingers, etc.
  • by millia (35740) on Thursday January 17, 2008 @10:22AM (#22079894) Homepage
    So it's an interactive whiteboard on the table instead of the wall. Aka, activboard, smartboard, mimio.
    Well, okay, it's multi-touch instead of single touch, but it's still not *that* fancy.

    BTW, those short throw projectors use a crazy fisheye lens to avoid keystoning. From our experience with them in the aforementioned whiteboards, the picture isn't as clear as a regular projector, and it's harder than normal to get good focus. When you're very near to the board, it gets quite noticeable.
    • by blincoln (592401)
      Well, okay, it's multi-touch instead of single touch, but it's still not *that* fancy.

      There is a lot of interesting research into the kinds of UIs you can do with a multi-touch table interface that can't be done with a screen. My favourite was a video of some students (at MIT, I think?) who had built one that also detected the position of marked physical objects which acted as various components in a virtual sound synthesizer program (so you could e.g. put a plastic star which represented a lowpass filter o
  • education (Score:3, Insightful)

    by apodyopsis (1048476) on Thursday January 17, 2008 @10:27AM (#22079948)
    they don't half hard on about the education market for this new projector on some of the other sites mentioning it.

    I was taught in an old fashioned British school with blackboards, chalk, uniforms and traditional methods. Is it just me who thinks that emphasis on gadgets like this will simply cost schools money and distract from the subject matter of the lesson.

    By all means get the whizzy gadgetry, but remember that its no substitute for competent teachers and a well planned curriculum.

    Of course this is /. and this comment is slightly off topic, so feel free to mode me to oblivion...

    • by Jellybob (597204)
      They're going on about the education market, because that's where this sort of technology is already in use - several of my relatives are teachers, and even primary schools are using interactive whiteboards now, and apart from the times when the laptop running it gets broken by one of the kids, they love the things, because they can do things like preparing their notes before a lesson, and just loading them at the appropriate time.

      That means they can spend more time teaching their students, instead of writi
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by SargentDU (1161355)
      I was in a military school in the 1970's (1979 actually) where the instructor used markers on a white board and
      pressed a button on the whiteboard and then passed out handouts with the screen drawing on it. He pressed
      another button and a wiper passed across the board and restored it to all white so he could write and draw as
      he pleased. It did not get in the way of education, in fact, it facilitated the instructor and his efforts.
    • I've felt the same in many respects, and when I was just finishing school they did start to use the early incarnation of the 'interactive whiteboard' in one of the classrooms. I generally found it quite pointless, but my mind was changed when I saw that recently there's a lot of research that's been done (citation needed, I'm sorry, this is a quick post) that shows they readily improve young school children's attention span by a huge amount, even if it's what they were used to from the start. There's just s
      • It may be that children are paying more attention to the large TV at the front of the room (what these things really are) than they were to the teacher, but my take is that much like the 5-second cuts in current TV shows, bright flashy colors and animation isn't "improving" anyone's attention span. For non-animated, non-colored, non-audio presentation of information (you know, those things called "books" or most of the "real" content on the Internet) this is likely to have an adverse affect. As television c
  • Who's worse ... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by robertmc (620899)
    CNET for getting the technology wrong or /. for saying it's Toshiba not Hitachi? Standards sinking ...
  • wouldn't that be 'variatios'?
  • It should also be noted that it appears the Hitachi can only support two simultaneous touches at a time, while the Surface can currently recognize up to 52 different touches and even specific items with visual codes fixed to them.
  • I seem to remember this being done in the mid-80s of the last century with a Commodore Amiga and a Live! video digitizer board. If I could be assed to Google it, I suppose I could quickly invalidate any subsequent patent claims
  • Hitachi makes StarBoard System, i guess someone will soon make a BSD flavored one and call it Ports :)
  • orientation (Score:3, Funny)

    by hey (83763) on Thursday January 17, 2008 @11:22AM (#22080568) Journal
    I think you'd get backache if you learned of over a Surface-like thing for a while.
    Maybe the answer is to flip it up horizontal.
    To avoid the cost of a touch screen (or sensors) you might instead use a mouse on a flat surface like a desk.
    That would be one awesome system!

  • i don't know the details of the patent, so perhaps this doesn't apply, but part of the video shows a "pinch" zoom function which I thought apple had patented.
  • This would be perfect for the assault on the Death Star from the Yavin rebel base.
  • What I want is not so much a table, but a tilted drawing board [google.com]. This projection tech can do that. Hell, a nice big DLP/HDMI TV can do that, tilted over and propped up.

    What we need is coffee mugs, pens, magazines and other regular objects that can stick on the tilted surface. 3M Post-Its tech to the rescue?
  • by El Cabri (13930) on Thursday January 17, 2008 @12:05PM (#22081116) Journal
    The actual hardware is not what Microsoft is after with the Surface, but rather the software, development platform and user experience. For all of these prototypes that explore various ways of bringing the image to any big flat surface and to track the user's touch, all of them show you how to use google maps, and then their ad-hoc photo shuffling application, and that's all. None of them has yet any real useful application or complete SDK with hardware support abstracted.
  • Well, at least now I don't have to worry about people putting their feet up and messing up my table.
  • I saw this in the Hitachi booth at CES. Very col device. The PC screen was projected on the special table top. There is some kind of sensor that detects the hand motions. Just like the Surface and iPhone. They used Google Maps satellite images to demo and showed zooming using multi-touch gestures.

    The other part is the extra buttons on the surface that work with a PC based white boarding application. You can click a color and then shape and draw a circle ( or text or square, etc) and it overlays on the
  • You're just changing the orientation of the projector. Besides - MS surface has a few other interesting features which I haven't seen in these demos. Off the top of my head, it communicates with devices using bluetooth (I think). This way you can set a camera down on the surface, and see all the stored pictures. or Set you MP3 player down and play music off of it. I could say that Hitachi reinvented the wheel, but if I said that, I'd have to say Microsoft invented the car.
  • So to summarise this is the Microsoft Big Arse Table with out the table? Hmmm, I'm not sure that they've run this past their marketing department.
  • It should be noted that the implication that leaning over the table blocks a projection from above is spurious
    Actually, it's specious [reference.com].
    • I would add that it is the assertion that is specious. This is slashdot, no-one implies anything when they can just assert it outright.
  • Northrup Grumman has had this in Iraq for about four years now.

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