Microsoft Brings Multi-touch To The Wall

Not only does Microsoft envision turning tabletops into computers, now it wants to do the same with walls. Today at Microsoft’s 12th annual CEO Summit, held on Microsoft's Redmond, Washington campus, Bill Gates demonstrated a prototype of a new technology called TouchWall. TouchWall takes the concept of Microsoft's Surface--a horizontal, interactive, multi-touch interface--and moves it vertically the wall.

During the demonstration, Gates said:

"Our view is that all the surfaces--horizontal surfaces, vertical surfaces--will eventually have an inexpensive screen display capability and software that sees what you are doing there, so it is completely interactive."

Later, he added:

"This kind of whiteboard--with a little bit of hardware advance over the next couple of years--will not be an expensive thing. And that's why we're saying that it will be absolutely pervasive. And people's ability to get it--information--and not want to see it on paper--want to just have it here where its so much more interactive--will be dramatically changed."

Gates referring to this new technology as a "whiteboard" is akin to calling a 103-inch Plasma display just a "television." If the technology will truly be pervasive in our homes, offices, and shops, it could possibly become our primary means of interfacing with computers. (Perhaps it will finally eliminate the oft-heard admonishment, "don't touch the screen, you'll get fingerprints on it!")

The TouchWall prototype uses scanning cameras located at the base of the device to detect when and where the surface is touched. As the technology matures, versions of it will likely utilize multi-touch-sensitive materials built into the glass substrate itself, similar to the iPhone. It is starting to look as though multi-touch technology might be the tipping point for the next revolution in how we interact with our computers.

To watch a video of the demonstration, click on the link here and then click on either the "Gates Demonstrates Touch Wall" WMV or MPG links.