The best way to get a sense of the capabilities of the Microsoft Surface Table is to watch an introductory video. However, here I'll present a number of the applications that the team built while developing Surface, which will hopefully give you a idea of its value and potential.
Virtual Pinball - (Panel e). One of the earliest Table applications, virtual pinball, simulated a virtual ball moving through a pinball machine. Using touch, people would trigger virtual bumpers to launch the ball on the Table surface, but diverse kinds of bumpers and play field obstacles could be placed on the field - for example, a physical 'black hole bumper' that would gravitationally affect the ball. Physical bumpers would also react to a ball hitting them by flashing and vibrating (triggered by lighting up the screen under the bumper).
Paint - (Panel f). This application allowed people to draw and create artwork on the surface of the Table, using both virtual and physical tools. They could use real paint brushes whose diameter and path were processed by the computer vision system. Virtual paint colors could be mixed with real brushes. Physical stamps allowed people to add prefabricated art into their illustrations. Any number of people could work on a piece of artwork simulataneously.
Water Simulation - (Panel g). This screensaver-type application simulates water over a variety of different background, such as rocks in a stream, a golf ball in a water trap, coins in a fountain, or even the internals of the Surface Table. By touching the surface, people create ripples and waves, distorting the background in a very real way.
Tanks - (Panel h). In this game, people use a physical remote control to drive a real toy mini-tank on the surface of the Table, and to compete with another real mini-tank driven by the table. Physical obstacles, such as walls or cliffs, placed on the table, are detected by the computer vision sensing system, and the Surface Table blocks the tanks from traveling through them (via acting as an intermediary through the remote control), and adjusts the virtual terrain accordingly. The tanks, both human driven and table driven, are constrained by a changing terrain, including virtual and physical objects. When the line-of-sight is clear, tanks can fire upon one another, which is realistically animated by the Table.
Video Puzzle - Users are challenged to solve a puzzle, made out of transparent tiles. The Table sees an otherwise invisible infrared tag on each piece, so it can uniquely distinguish between them. Fragments of the video frame are projected through each tile, and people try to reorganize them to show the complete, unified video.
TV Companion - The table acts as both a remote control, and secondary display providing additional information about the show being watched, as well as other shows that interest the user. The table could network in friends who were watching a show simultaneously, allowing them to share comments or video annotations.
Educational Games and Imaginitive Play - Panel (i). Spelling and math games allow kids to use real alphabet flash cards to practice their spelling on the Table, or real coins to practice their math. The Table determines which flash card was placed by a bar code / tag on back, and distinguishes between coins by their size. The Table also supported imaginitive play via Lego games, in which the Table would differentiate between lego bricks and figures by their shape or a tag on their underside. Lego was one of our early partners in developing Table scenarios.
Family Games: Trivial Pursuit / Scrabble / TransAmerica / Robobattle, etc... - (Panel j). The Surface Table team implemented numerous games as prototypes. For Trivial Pursuit, the Table understood rolls of real dice, and the movement of the Trivial Pursuit game pieces on the board. A visor - a real world object that only allows a single player to see a portion of the table, selectively revealed the answer. Similarly, in Scrabble, visors hid players' virtual letter tiles from each other. In games such as Robobattle, the Table simulated complex game mechanics, freeing the players from bookkeeping and game mechanics that made the game play faster and more fun.
Photo organization - (Panel k). The Table also provided a surface to organize digital photography. People could place a phone on the Table to retrieve photos from it, and then sort the photos into different bins, represented by real world objects, which could be brought from Table to Table, or opened virtually on a desktop.