Microsoft's Mystery Product Is... A Touch-Sensitive Table?



Update: a new tipster has come with corroborative information—see below

Nearly 100 comments, and only one guy came close. According to an assortment of unrelated sources, the best guess is that tonight at midnight, Microsoft will finally launching its PlayTable concept as a full-blown entertainment product. ZDNet's Mary Jo Foley says PlayTable, aka Project Milan is a "multi-touch, gestural- and object-recognition interface technology" that Microsoft has demoed to a lot of people lately, but mainly as technology rather than a product in development. CrunchGear suggests that, based on a demo he saw, it might be a touch-friendly game console that competes with the Wii on intuitive user interface front.

We have another source that confirms the table-ness of the announcement, but says that it will be a kiosk-type of device, meant to provide gaming entertainment and a retail interface for Zune, but that, at a cost of $10,000 a pop, it won't be something that people actually buy for their homes.

Our source doesn't name the product, but says that rather than being a touchscreen LCD, it's a rear-projection table that uses an array of projectors, all aimed up at the screen, which has a resolution of 1024x768, and will be 23 to 25 inches in size. Two or more people can use it, and it would be situated in casinos or other places. (Partnerships already allegedly formed are with Harrah's Casinos and Sheraton hotels.)

Some alleged applications:

•Music - You put your music player on the table, and your credit card. Both are recognized, then you drag songs to the player. Zune is obvious first device, but potential other partner in the works. One demo used a nano. Could partner really be Apple? Let's not get carried away... yet.

•Virtual Concierge - A fairly self explanatory guide program, complete with mapping programs

•Food & Drink - Not just interactive menus, but glass (and presumably plate and maybe even silverware) recognition. Like Music program, it reads credit cards just by placing them on table.

•Photo - A simple photo editor reminiscent of iPhoto

•Puzzle - A game where you assemble actual pieces of glass on top of the table, each with a sliver of live video playing

•Water - A water screensaver that you can touch to make ripples

•Paint - Simple painting program that reads pressure sensitivity by judging the size of your fingerprint

The bottom line from our source is that it's very reminiscent of OSX, and also, like with Zune and Xbox, the Microsoft branding is lowkey. Its name, whatever that is, will be the center branding. It will likely not be in final form during the All Things D demonstrations.

Below I've embedded a video, brought to our attention by ZDNet's Mary Jo Foley, that demonstrates the sort of gestural recognition that will be found in the PlayTable (or whatever). Will I post confirmation at midnight? You bet!

Okay, as we approach the bewitching hour, more information is coming to light. A more appropriate term for the technology is Microsoft Smart Surface, which replaced the nickname "PlayTable" a long time ago. (I still like PlayTable better.) The size and shape can vary, but the demo unit scheduled for use tomorrow looks like a coffee table. Our new tips corroborate our original information in that 1) object recognition will use RFID or other near-field technology for identification of objects (a Microsoft favorite going way back) and 2) the iPod is indeed part of the equation. Apparently Zune ain't enough to get music fans revved about PlayTable, er, Microsoft Smart Surface.

Click to view



Microsoft to take the wraps off 'PlayTable' [ZDNet]

Microsoft's Mystery Product: Game Table? Yah, Probably [CrunchGear]

Top Secret Microsoft Product To Launch At Midnight [Gizmodo]

And thanks tipsters!