Tabletop computing gets a second chance
When Microsoft debuted its giant Surface tabletop computer back in 2007, executives predicted it might only take three to five years for a version to make its way to consumers. That never happened, but 15 years later, tabletop computing is back — this time in a new, game-focused vision from another company.
Why it matters: Long ago both Bill Gates and "Minority Report" promised a future in which every wall and surface becomes a digital screen where information can be displayed and manipulated by touch. That future is finally beginning to materialize.
Driving the news: Tastemakers — best known for Arcade 1Up, its line of slimmed down versions of '80s arcade games — is launching retail sales of the Infinity Game Table next month, following a successful Kickstarter campaign.
- Starting at around $600, the coffee-table size device includes a bunch of classic Hasbro games along with digital card games, jigsaw puzzles and coloring books.
- Games can be played by multiple people in one place, or with other table owners over the internet.
Flashback: The original Surface may be a distant memory now, but it was a groundbreaking computer for its time, with demos that wowed.
- Debuting around the same time as the iPhone, it was one of the first commercial products to offer a multitouch interface.
- Microsoft targeted sales of the first Surface at the hotel and retail markets. However, those who got a chance to experience it were inevitably captivated by its potential consumer uses.
Yes, but: Priced at a prohibitive $10,000 and extremely bulky, the device never got a chance to move beyond niche business markets. Microsoft eventually licensed the technology to Samsung, and later reused the Surface name for its own consumer tablets.
Between the lines: The iPhone made touch screens a part of our lives while the Surface vanished.
- In the intervening years, however, the visions have grown closer: Apple introduced the iPad, touch came to Windows computers and tablets, and touch screens are everywhere now from cars to elevators to vending machines.
What's next: A lot of surface areas have yet to be digitized. Despite Gates' promise, most walls still only smudge when we touch them.
- But the Infinity Game Table, like Surface before it, shows how just offering a touch screen in a different shape or size creates new opportunities. I suspect Gates is right on the outcome, if not on the timing.
Go deeper: Game Table review