For this TNI Podcast, we interviewed Briand Sanderson of the Microsoft Surface team. In April of 2008, Microsoft launched the revolutionary Microsoft Surface technology using small cameras that could recognize objects placed on a Microsoft Surface table. With the release of Microsoft Surface 2 technology in January of 2011, the technology changed dramatically. Briand Sanderson fills us in on the exciting new technologies and features for Microsoft Surface 2 in this TNI Podcast.

Interested in Microsoft Surface 2 and all that it can do??

Watch the full podcast:

Video Transcription:

Liz :Hi and welcome to the TNI podcast series, where we interview web, social media, and interactive market professionals.

Today we’re talking with Briand Sanderson. He’s a senior product manager from the Microsoft Surface team. In January 2011, Microsoft released their newer, sleeker Microsoft Surface 2 table. In this podcast, we’ll learn about this unique technology and how some businesses are using it. Briand, thanks for joining us.

Briand: Thanks for inviting me.

Liz: We’re really excited to talk to you about the Microsoft Surface 2 technology. Just to kind of get started, can you tell us how it’s changed a little bit from the Microsoft Surface 1 technology that was released in April of 2008?

Briand: Sure, Liz. It’s changed actually quite a bit, there have been a lot of changes. I think I’ll just highlight a few of them.

Liz: Perfect.

Briand: Number one is a 4-inch thin form factor. So as you might recall Surface V1 was about 18 inches in terms of how large it was, and now we’ve been able to reduce that down to 4 inches.

We’re using a 40-inch screen size so we’ve increased the display size from 30 inches to 40 inches, and we’ve gone to a 16 by 9 form factor. We now allow vertical implementation, so you can actually mount the Surface V2 on the wall. The way that we did all of this is we invented a new technology we call Pixel Sense. This Pixel Sense essentially let’s an LCD screen see, whereas with Surface V1 we used cameras that were embedded in the system.

Liz: And that was a question that I had for you. So in the Microsoft Surface 1 table, there were actually a series of small cameras that were recording your movement? Is that how that technology worked?

Briand: Exactly, if you think of webcams today. You know you might have a webcam sitting up on top of your monitor. We had four, actually five, webcams in the body of Surface V1 that were facing up. Now if you imagine those cameras were looking up and seeing what was being displayed, or what was being put on top of the table.

The image was stitched together to form 60 frames per second. Now with V2 we actually have a sensor at every pixel site. Imagine, if you will, your DSLR or your camera that you’ve stretched that sensor all the way across the full screen size. It’s embedded in the same layer as the pixels and we see objects that are placed on top of the screen.

Liz: Can you explain a little bit more about how with Pixel Sense you can actually see like documents and images that are placed on the table, how it picks up that image and then projects it?

Briand: Sure. So, one thing to note is we don’t actually see well enough to do optical character recognition. So when we put a piece of paper down on Surface, if it has text on it, we really can’t see the text. But if I draw a large, “I can see”, and I place that down. Then you can see that the pixels actually see the paper. It’s about a 27 dot per inch vision system.

So we’re really not aiming at scenarios where you put receipts, or pieces of paper that you can read down on Surface. We can see objects like paint brushes. We can see our hands and our fingers. We can see the outline of the Coke can for example. We can also see tags. So we have a special kind of tagging system that allows us to track and recognize really quickly tags that are placed on Surface. Those are just a pattern of dots that we can recognize.

Liz: Very cool. I know that in Mashable in January they published that these technologies, sort of like what you were saying, like the items that they recognize like a Coke can, we’ll see these technologies in places like Hard Rock Cafe, Royal Bank Canada. How else might we see these companies use this technology?

Briand: Well, we’re actually aiming at a number of different key verticals. That includes retail, hospitality, health care, even automotive, financial services, public sector. Even the information worker to some extent. Just some quick examples, in addition to the ones you mentioned, Clinique is actually using Surface in their Smart Bar in Bloomingdales in New York City, and Holland American cruise lines is also using Surface on their cruise ships.

Liz: an you talk about how exactly they’re using them? What they’re actually doing with them, and what type of objects people are integrating and incorporating with them?

Briand: Sure. In the case of the Clinique Smart Bar, you can actually go in and have a consultation with an expert around make up or some of the products. If you’re a guy, there are also men’s products as well. They can put those products down, they’re tagged, and show you which products correspond to your particular skin type. So, that’s how Clinique is using the objects.

Liz:That’s very interesting. So, this might be a really big question so you can answer it as in depth or not in depth as you like. How do you develop for Microsoft Surface? What does that process look like? Is it sitting around a table writing on a white board? What goes into developing for that application?

Briand: Well, I think the first thing I like to talk about is our SDK, our SDK for V2 was launched in July and is now available. The nice thing about the SDK is you don’t actually have to have hardware to develop the Surface application. So with the SDK we actually have a simulator that allows you to simulate multi touch, simulate objects, and get a feel for how the applications going to work with any Windows 7 device.

If your Windows 7 device happens to be touch enabled you can also use the touch on the Windows 7 device to simulate Surface. So you can actually get started developing for Surface right away with the Surface SDK without the hardware. It’s a very familiar environment to must developers. We use WPF, and we also allow XNA well. We support both of those programming models, and really you can get started because the controls we provide with the SDK do a lot of the high-level or low-level stuff for you. Such as a scatter view might. That’s one of our controls that allows you to just throw some objects on the screen and let them be moved around as physics, resizing. All that stuff is built in so you can actually get started with this Surface application in about 15 minutes.

Liz: Oh, wow. So, it’s really easy to get started, but it might be a big project after that.

Briand: I think the biggest thing for people to get around is that there is not up, down, left, right, like there is on a monitor. With a monitor, you don’t have to worry about your dialogue boxes and your windows. They’re all going to be orientated up, down, left, right exactly like they would on your monitor, but on Surface you have to think about there are people standing all around the table, a 360° approach.

Liz:Viewing it from different angles, interacting with it in different ways.

Briand: You have to think about multiple people using it at the same time. So there are a lot of considerations that people don’t think about until they actually start to develop for Surface.

Liz: That’s a really interesting consideration, especially how it will sort of change our interaction in retail places, restaurants, running errands. It really could bring a lot of benefits to a lot of the things that we do in everyday life. I know that a lot of the marketers that are listening would be curious to get your opinion on what you think the most creative use of this technology has been and what that benefit is for the marketplace?

Briand: Well, there have been a lot of creative uses of it. I think the one that I like to talk about the most, which is a real world application, is what the Royal Bank of Canada is doing. They’ve deployed some pilot Surface V1 units with an application that brings new customers in to their stores.

What they did is they sent out a mailer to the residents in the area that’s served by that bank and they actually got a really fantastic return rate. They had new customers come into the bank and because you’re interacting around a table. You build up a support and trust system much more quickly.

So what Royal Bank of Canada found is that a lot of customers who came into the bank to learn more about what the bank offered through this mailer, actually converted into customers and actually went in and used RBC products and became new customers.

Liz: Wow. So, yeah, it would definitely be a great learning tool in a lot of those sales and sort of instructional type of situations. I can definitely see that working really well for that.

We’re actually nearing the end of our time. Thank you so much for joining us. Again, Briand, we appreciate it. We look forward to developing for the Microsoft Surface in the future. So, hopefully we’ll be in touch. For anyone who’s listening, please visit the Microsoft Surface website at

Briand: Perfect.

Liz:Thank you very much Briand.

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2 Responses

  1. Magdelina on 01 Nov 2011

    Thanks for spending time on the computer (writing) so oehtrs don’t have to.

  2. Liz Maritz
    Liz Maritz on 28 Sep 2011

    A great VISUAL demo of Microsoft Surface 2 and how it works.

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