Ordering at a restaurant using your table’s Surface

June 1, 2007

Imagine ordering food at a restaurant, or drinks at a bar, by putting your hands on the table and making your selections. No more asking the waiter for a paper and pen, or pointing at menu items and then negating the “onion” listing, or speaking your choices and hoping the waiter understood enough to bring back the right dishes.

Microsoft Surface logoMicrosoft has announced that tables will arrive later this year with the new Surface platform. They will probably be found in upscale bars and hotels, and other places where people gather. And as the prices drop, these Surface tables may be found in even more places.

What are these? They’re like tables, but their entire top areas are actually touch-sensitive computer screens. You can interact with the Surface by drawing stuff with your fingertips, or moving pictures and windows aside, or making selections from lists using your bare hands. You can even type directly onto the Surface, and a keyboard would appear under your fingers. No mouse or physical keyboard allowed. Nice. (I just hope the table surfaces are washable in between uses!) The Surface can even detect and interact with objects placed on it, like cellphones (comparing two or more models with information underneath), cups, and so on. And several people can use the Surface at the same time.

Ever seen the movie, Minority Report? Of course, as a truly Proud Geek, my favorite parts of the movie were when Tom Cruise was selecting pictures and rearranging them on an electronic wall made solely of light, using gloves with special photo-electric lights on them. Well, it sounds like the future is HERE, and we don’t even need Tom Cruise’s cool gloves.

The future — as envisioned by Hollywood:

Minority Report scene

The present — thanks to Microsoft:

Surface being used

And remember when I said you could order drinks or meals? Here’s a birds-eye view of a sample menu you might be seeing soon at a nearby restaurant. Note that the coaster under the cup actually appears whereever you put down your drink.

Surface - menu

Microsoft also envisions people using these Surfaces to do maps, listen to music, watch videos or rearrange photos, and much much more. I’ll wrap this up with a video of the possibilities.

(Thanks, Lifehacker and Download Squad!)


7 Responses to “Ordering at a restaurant using your table’s Surface”

  1. Richard Roehm Says:

    Great technology could make life better for people with communication issues.

  2. Dwayne Adkins Says:

    Glad to see it making progress and putting in place to use. It will save lot of time and grief in placing orders. I can say it is here in some fast food places like Subway, BP with Wild Bean delis,certain Mom and Pop deli’s too.

    With a touch screen menu, you can make your own sandwiches the way you want it. Perhaps Joey’s experience ordering steak sandwiches would have been easier if there were a touch screen menu, eh?

  3. gally grad Says:

    this may make things easier for some people, but those who are blind/low vision or who have motor/dexterity issues will be completely left out of this technology.

    inaccessibility stinks. but so few things are designed to be universally accessible. for more info about universal design, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Universal_design

  4. Proud Geek Says:

    Gally Grad, you raise a very good point about accessibility for people who are blind / have low vision or have limited dexterity. Since the Surface can play music, I wonder if Microsoft can program in a voice synthesizer that can speak choices (or be shut off) as needed, ie, when detecting a hand on the Surface. And I wonder too if choices / pictures can be made larger and/or easier to touch / move for those with limited dexterity. What about voice recognition software for those who are paralyzed? Hmmmm.

  5. Lantana Says:

    This reminds me of one of those childrens’ toy “boards” where you write, then pull up the plastic cover to delete the message. I know a hearing woman who used one of these because she’d had a stroke and could not use her voice. I think they cost less than $5.00 at a toy store.



  6. proudgeek Says:

    Haha, Lantana! Those Surfaces will cost about $10,000. That’s a huge step up from those $5 write-n-erase boards!

  7. Dianrez Says:

    Looking beyond their use in restaurants, these tabletop screens have enormous applications in graphic arts, in gaming, in communications from desktop to desktop and beyond in cyberspace, and in videophone use. Maybe with modifications they could provide access to deaf-blind people? We all know the rapid drop in price that happens with electronics, so in under ten years these could be in homes.
    I’m keeping an eye on this.

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