Surface computing goes portable: Prototype demonstrated at TED Talks

12Mar09

A fascinating tech development was unveiled at TED Talks last month and posted online this week.

Pattie Maes, MIT MediaLab fame, presented a prototype of a portable surface computer. The demonstration includes a number of scenarios showcasing functionality and possible commercial application of the product.

The idea is intriguing; it’s a portable internet computer interface, camera and mobile phone that projects an image you may interact with onto any surface. By linking the device with content archives, such as product bar codes, QR codes, Amazon, eBay, Google Maps or consumer review sites. It should be possible to review, compare, price and source products before you buy them while you view the product in a store or anywhere you find one.

The designers are hoping the device will be much more fun than just a functional tool for shopping, describing it as an example of their work that hopes to augment or add to our other senses. Cue tech dreams based on Minority Report and I Robot.

The video link also shows an entertaining example of how, upon meeting a person for the first time, the system may recognise their face by the camera and linking to an imagined connection with LinkedIn or Facebook. Upon finding a photo match for the person, the projector then shows key information about that person.

I bet identical twins or people who look like someone else may have a view on this idea. Let alone anyone who has content on their social network page they may not wish to publicise so readily out of context. But it’s a rather fun way of finding out something about the people who are around you.

Watch the TED Talk: HERE

The prototype device (understandably much more bulky and impractical than a production unit would be)

The prototype device (understandably much more bulky and impractical than a production unit would be)

As well as taking photos, it allows you to search, arrange and file them - just as a surface computer does.

As well as taking photos, it allows you to search, arrange and file them - just as a surface computer does.

Adding a phone number for a contact, or placing a call to them using your mobile

Adding a phone number for a contact, or placing a call to them using your mobile

Example of checking a review for a product online (amber light)

Example of checking a review for a product online (amber light)

Here the Amazon rating for a book is projected onto it as you take it off the shelf in a bookstore.

Here the Amazon rating for a book is projected onto it as you take it off the shelf in a bookstore.

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