Microsoft Surface – What’s inside


Microsoft Surface - What's insideAfter starting the task, I started to be very curios about the technology that drives this device.I started looking over the internet and I found this picture. Very interesting, isn’t it? Basically contains a normal computer, linked to a projector and few infrared cameras.

1) Screen, the visual part of the device  – Contains a special diffuser which turns the Surface’s acrylic tabletop into a big horizontal “multitouch” screen, capable of acquiring and processing multiple inputs from multiple users in the same time. The Surface is far more advanced than simple multitouch devices, being capable to be aware of different objects by recognizing their shape or by reading coded “domino” tags when placed on the table.

2) Infrared, the "eyes"– Surface’s “machine vision” is able to "see" in the near-infrared spectrum, using a 850-nanometer-wavelength LED light source pointed to the screen. When different shaped objects touch the table, the light is reflected back and is acquired by multiple infrared cameras with a resolution of 1280 x 960 points.

3) CPU, the heart – Surface uses a normal computer, composed by many components found in everyday desktop computers, neither extreme powerful nor extraordinary — a Core 2 Duo processor, 2GB of RAM and a 256MB graphics card. It has a wireless communication with devices on the surface using WiFi and Bluetooth antennas (maybe the next versions will incorporate advanced technologies like RFID or Near Field Communications). The operating system is a modified version of Microsoft Vista.

4) Projector – Microsoft’s Surface takes advantage of a normal DLP light engine which can be seen in many rear-projection HDTV’s. Very reliable and easy to interconnect. The visible screen has a resolution of  1024 x 768 pixels, quite smaller compared with invisible overlapping infrared projection – allows better recognition at the edges of the screen, place where the most interesting menus are shown.

Apart from these, also has:

  1. normal USB ports for connecting devices,
  2. a VGA-out for connecting an external monitor for development or for enhancing user experience – connecting a big Plasma or LCD Screen
  3. power and reset switches

Bottom up, this is a regular computer but where the genius intervene is that it is packed with a interesting top screen and infrared cameras and a custom framework to enable the ubiquitous experience.

Quite cool, after all, isn’t it?