Windows 7 touch-screen interface allows users to interact with their PCs – INCLUDES VIDEO

Microsoft demonstrated its multi-touch interface for its upcoming Windows 7 operating system on Tuesday.

The interface provides a touch-screen input for users to interact with their computers.

Video Demo of Microsoft Surface & Laser Touch

Multi-touch uses Surface technology, introduced last year by Microsoft, which harnesses touch and multi-touch capabilities to provide users with a more natural way to interact directly with computing devices.

Expect to see the table-like Surface devices in hotels, retail establishments, restaurants and public entertainment venues, said Microsoft executive, Chris Flores in the Windows Vista Team blog.

Flores is a director at Microsoft working on the Windows Client Communications Team.

In a demo to the Wall Street Journal’s D: All Things Digital conference, Julie Larson-Green, Microsoft’s corporate vice-president for Windows experience program management, showed a number of applications that could use the multi-touch technology, including photography applications that enable a user to handle photos on the screen more easily.

The user can drag and drop snaps, zoom in, and rotate snaps with his fingers. The musically inclined can play with their fingers on an on-screen piano keyboard.

In a blog entry on Tuesday, Flores said that the long-term architectural investments Microsoft introduced in Windows Vista and then refined for Windows Vista SP1 and Windows Server 2008 will carry forward in Windows 7. Contrary to some speculation, Microsoft is not creating a new kernel for Windows 7, he said.

One of the design goals for Windows 7 is that it will run on the recommended hardware specified for Windows Vista and that the applications and devices that work with Windows Vista will be compatible with Windows 7, Flores added.

Microsoft’s Surface, is basically a touch screen coffee table computer.

Andy Wilson, the designer who created Surface has now unveiled his latest project called LaserTouch. Wilson is a member of the Adaptive Systems and Interaction group at Microsoft Research.

LaserTouch is a new sensing technology that uses computer vision techniques to sense your multiple contacts on a surface. So you see here there’s a camera. The camera is looking at everything on the display and we also have these infrared lasers. You’ll have to take my word for it that they’re infrared.

You shouldn’t be able to see infrared. So these infrared lasers are set up to throw a sheet of infrared light on the surface of the display and the contacts are detected in the video in the video processing unit when you touch the surface and reflect back some of the infrared light. So when I go here you can see you can get multiple contacts on the surface.

Using experimental presentation software called Plex, Wilson was able to navigate through PowerPoint-like presentation slides on a 30-inch flat-panel display.

So this is a PowerPoint deck and this is how we can flip through a PowerPoint presentation. I like Plex because you can do a presentation and not be completely bogged down by the way PowerPoint works. You know, PowerPoint is one slide after another. In Plex I can pop up and out of those slides and maybe show a video.

It’s a much more fluid, non linear, random access system. So right now we’re just doing the standard. I can touch to translate or do this kind of flicking thing. And then do this tapping gesture which brings me in and out of the various slides or videos. And then there is this sort of flicking gesture that I can use to get from one slide to another.

At first glance, LaserTouch and Surface look surprisingly similar, but Wilson said that because LaserTouch can work with screens that have a much higher resolution than Surface, it could be used by office workers, if its ever brought to market.

Wilson said that his software was also used to power the interactive whiteboard technology called Touch Wall that Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates recently demonstrated at the company’s CEO Summit. LaserTouch can work on virtually any flat display, including a projection screen. The two lasers and a camera used in Wilson’s demo cost just a few hundred dollars.

Earlier research has shown how technology like LaserTouch can mesh with the real world in interesting ways, like in this game of chess where two people in different locations can play against each other.

Each player put a white piece of paper and white or black chess pieces on the board and the LaserTouch did the rest. There is a drawback, though. When you capture a piece, your opponent, not you, has to remove it from the board.

With reporting by Nick Barber in Boston and Robert McMillan in Mountainview, California.

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