T-Mobile USA, the number three domestic carrier by volume, is looking to up the ante with its in-store experienceâ€”inking a deal to install Microsoftâ€™s new coffee table computers, dubbed â€œSurface.â€ Â With its announcement earlier this week in the Wall Street Journal (read here), T-Mobile joins Starwood Hotels and Harrahâ€™s Entertainment among those slated to be the first retailers to make use of the new touch-screenÂ machines in November.
Microsoftâ€™s Surface Computing technology, a.k.a. PlayTable, features a 30-inch acrylic tabletop PC with a â€œgesturalâ€ touch interface; that is, content moves according to your hand gestures.Â (Yes, itâ€™s very Minority Report-esque, which is the de facto comment everybody has to get out of the way).Â
See it in action for yourself after the jumpâ€¦
Hey, thanks for coming along!Â Hereâ€™s the promised teaser clip.
So as you can see (well, actually you canâ€™t), Surface combines five cameras with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth wireless networkingâ€”which is what allows it to detect objects and movementâ€”and runs on a 1Ghz souped-up version of Windows Vista.Â As users move their hands on the table top, the cameras help translate the motions into commands.Â Â For instance, people can select a color by touching a virtual palette, and then â€œpaintingâ€ images on the screen with their fingers.
Wireless technology also enables the transfer of stored photos from a digital camera or cellphone placed on the table to the Surface screen.Â Â And from there, a mere wave of the hand can make the images larger or smaller. Â In fact,Â pictures can even be moved to another camera or hard drive by sliding the images across the tableâ€”just like youâ€™d pass a picture along in real life.Â (Except without the buffalo-wing-grease fingerprints)!
In a recent demonstration, Microsoft executives showed how the object-recognition feature could work for Harrahâ€™s: Â By placing a casino loyalty card on the table, for example, a map of Caesarâ€™s Palace might be called upâ€”which you could then tap onÂ to display show times, menus, descriptions of nightclubs, etc. Â Not to mention, of course, the potential gambling innovationsâ€¦Â
As far as T-Mobileâ€™s plans for Surface go, theyâ€™ve got some interesting ideas:Â Customers will be able to compare cellphone models simply by placing them on the screenâ€”triggering pop-up windows that detail the assorted features of the handsets. Â And once users have narrowed down their selection,Â they can then dive deeper to learn about rate plans and the like.Â T-Mobile could even offer a version of their T-Zones WAP deckâ€”calling out the different content and entertainment areasâ€”though they havenâ€™t announced any such plans.
Still, cool technology does tend to come with a cool price tag: Â Surface prices on the order of $10,000 at full retail.Â But for the kind of buzz and cool-factor cache that the tabletops will confer, it may turn out to be the cheapest advertising these companies do all year.Â (Especially if Harrahâ€™s can figure out how to deal cards with itâ€¦).