The Microsoft Corporation has unveiled its newest invention, named “Surface.” to be unveiled Wednesday at a technology confrence in Carlsbad, California. This computer is shaped like a coffee-table and responds to touch and special bar codes attached to everyday objects. Surface contains a Windows Vista PC in a shiny black table base. Its touch screen will measure 30 inches in a clear acrylic frame. It has five cameras that can sense nearby objects mounted beneath the screen. Users will be able to touch or drag across the screen with their fingertips and objects such as paintbrushes. It will also be able to detect bar codes for use in businesses on the top of the computer. The screen can pick up and respond to more than one touch at a time, in some cases using all 10 fingers to perform an action.

The product is due to come out in November in T-Mobile USA stores, properties owned by Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc., and Harrah’s Entertainment Inc.

The price per unit is $5,000-$10,000, extremely pricey for the average person. However, the company expects prices to drop enough to make consumer versions in three to five years. Until then, consumers will be able to get some practice with them when they begin to be present in businesses. T-Mobile will have them available to help customers pick out new phones by reading bar codes and displaying information about the product. They will also be able to select calling plans and ringtones by dragging icons to the phone. Starwood Hotel plans to make Surface available for guests waiting in their lobby to download and play music. In hotel restaurants, customers will be able to order using these screens and be able to split the bill by using a card or room key.

Microsoft is making the hardware for the program itself and has given only six outside software development firms just enough information to be able to make applications for the program. Obviously, this is a secret that they do not want getting out.

If successful, it could be the biggest invention since the cell phone, and that’s saying something.

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