Friday, 1 June 2007

Surface tension

You've probably seen Microsoft Surface by now. It's a little bit Minority Report, a little bit old-school table cabinet, and a whole lot of something different.

But how much use could it be in a library? I think it's got huge potential in a public area. It could provide a totally new way of flicking through records on the OPAC, or implementing self-service for book issues. It's something a lot of people could crowd around and share, unlike a 17-inch PC monitor.

It offers a different way of doing computer stuff to the WIMP paradigm we've become used to. The table-top interaction seems a nifty idea: it's a far better representation of your desktop than any current OS. I spent this morning working on a taxonomy for a top-secret community information solution. I've got lots of subject headings and I want to see the different ways they fit together. Windows doesn't let me do this easily, if at all, so I've been throwing Post-Its around my desk. And then I had to type up my favourite configuration of these terms. With Surface, I could (presumably) whizz my virtual Post-It equivalents all over the screen and take snapshots of the arrangements.

But would the novelty wear off? I have the same concerns about the Wii: is the substance good enough to last beyond the initial fun of doing things in a new way?