Access and Inclusion through Technology

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Microsoft Surface - the WOW is back - for real

December 4th, 2008
I was trying to remember the last time I put my mucky fingers onto technology and went wow ! OK maybe there have been a few things that caused wow in lower case but its been a long, cynical journey since then. Friday I had my first opportunity to interact with surface Computing and I have to say I went “WOW”
I’m not going to simply post a review here - that will come as I get a little more time with the technology (See you at BETT) But I did want to share some early thoughts
1 Surface changes the way we interact with Technology and Data
There is something that is critical going on when one interacts with a Surface device, and it is that the interaction is direct and dynamic. I see, I touch, I control - its so simple. Whether manipulating images, composing music or exploring history that simple set of interactions is consistent.
This is incredibly exciting for people for whom the traditional mouse and keyboard have been an excluding factor, no transfer of attention, no hand/eye co-ordination to struggle with and so on
2 Surface is a Social Computer
There were 5 or so of us around the surface computer - all fascinated by the technology - but the real excitement came as we used it to interact with one another. We played games, created a soundtrack, and shared images in a genuinely collaborative manner.
Social computing is at the heart of next generation technologies, its nothing new, you can see it in the success of YouTube, Xbox Live, World of Warcraft etc. But all of these are social networks across the Internet.
Social computing is at its most obvious in the success of Rock Band on Xbox 360 where friends socialise around the device to play music together, its probably at the heart of the success of the wii as a family console - but Surface shifts that into a whole new dimension with the range of possibilities beyond simple entertainment.
Again for people users with a disability, individually or in small groups the device makes you want to chat, to communicate and share.  The social computer lets us do things together - and that’s possible regardless of your personal needs
3 Surface promotes non - linear computing
Most technologies expect us to use them in a linear manner, we start, engage and complete a task, activity or challenge. Surface has the potential to be an open ended interface. By this I mean that we can utilise raw materials it offers us and shape them in completely new ways. This is especially true in the creative technologies where we can now reform ideas and concepts by touch and manipulation. Most importantly the social side of the technology means that ideas and concepts are shared and build one upon another.
Let me explain that a little - sat around the surface device we began to create a soundtrack, I touched the bass rhythms and began to toss them into the mixer, others started to explore the keyboard and guitar riffs choosing and removing as I changed the bass - I didn’t like the roll chosen by another, at a touch I altered them and we could compare the changes.
My initial vision of what we might sound like, evolved and changed as others had input - no single member of the team could dominate or determine the end result - pretty rare in any setting
So Im excited, new surface apps will emerge soon Im sure - but there is a real opportunity for developers with imagination to create something genuinely new and different here - watch this space !!!

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