Microsoft isn't set to officially unveil its Surface Sphere until Demofest 2008 kicks off, but that hasn't stopped Seattle PI's Todd Bishop from running his hands-on story a little early. The multitouch-sensitive display, a spherical version of the original Microsoft Surface table, is intended as a design exercise or "an exploration of ideas", according to project leader Hrvoje Benko, and not planned for a commercial release.
The team had to fathom a way to take images formated for flat displays and manipulate them for projection onto the curved surface. They also managed to use the same lens that projects for recognising where fingers are touching the Sphere, meaning all of the hardware can be inside.
"I believe what we are seeing is the emergence of various kinds of interactive surfaces. This is one surface that might be serving a particular purpose, but it should probably live in an ecosystem of other surfaces. So what's really interesting to us is what kinds of interactive surfaces we can make, how well we can make them, and how people interact with them -- how they are used" Hrvoje Benko, project leader, Microsoft Surface Sphere
Demo apps include a version of Pong where players physically drag the paddles around the Sphere, together with a photo browsing app that uses the by-now familiar stretching and shrinking gestures to manipulate images. The Sphere can also be set to "spin" and let users paint with their fingertips. Alternatively, full-screen video can be shown around the whole of the Sphere's surface.
Todd has a video of the Surface Sphere in action which you can see here.