An updated version of Microsoft's surface touch-screen table, featuring high-definition cameras and a higher resolution display could be expected within a year, the audience at a South By South West Interactive panel entitled 'Violating the Warranty on Your Touch Computing Device' heard today.
Speaking about the next version of Surface, Erik Klimczak, Creative Director at Clarity Consulting, which creates interactive applications for the Surface, said: "In the short order, within a year I'd expect to see a second version of this [Surface] but with higher definition cameras.
"Right now the cameras are limited in how much detail they can pick up. And it's actually displaying at 1024 x 768, which is not very big so the HD cameras will enable a lot higher resolution."
Microsoft's User Experience Evangelist for Surface, Chris Bernard, quickly stepped in to add that Microsoft has nothing to announce.
Beyond the current generation of Surface, Microsoft is working on a project called SecondLight, which allows images to be projected above the table top and interacted with by using gestures.
In answer to an audience question about when SecondLight would be commercially available, Joe Olsen, CEO of design firm Phenomblue said he had heard that it would be two to three years:
"That's in R&D right now, and they haven't even got to the point where they've figured out how to commercialise it yet. I asked the same question and I got 'two to three years before anything would happen'. Now, things have come out a lot sooner than that before but it's definitely still in the R&D stage."
Olson went on to explain more about SecondLight: "It's a Surface table with another camera inside it that kind of projects through the first screen onto something else, so you can put a layer of transparency over the top of it and get a different graphical image on top of that. It has also got some infrared capabilities of that extend the interaction area by about a foot by three foot off the table so you can actually make gestures in the air."
There's a still a long way to go before touch computing gives way to gesture computing, but it'll happen, says Olsen. "Gesture is the next big thing, we have to get out of this TV, monitor, camera system [that the Surface uses]."