Killer Apps for Microsoft Surface: The Complete Guide [updated]

Microsoft's interactive table, dubbed Surface, brings the heady dream of interactive computing closer to reality. As developers find ways to make Surface's gorgeous multi-user interface shine, more and more companies are turning to the device to reinvent their customer experience. Here is a list of the Surface apps already in use, and a few that are coming soon. If you have video of these apps, or know of others that should be included here, email ideas@fastcompany.com with details.

GeoEye Imagery Explorer and Terrain Profiler by ESRI

 

These two prototype satellite image catalogs are built on the ArcGIS API and displays high-res images of locales all over the globe, geotagged for on-the-map finger searches and fully manipulable via multi-touch. The Terrain Profile app does just what it sounds like: drag your finger between or around locations, and get topographical information on that specific route or area hosted by ArcGIS.

Cross Country Mobility by ESRI

 

Like some desktop mapping apps, this prototype app allows users to find travel routes that are fastest, shortest, most economical and least traffic-dense. But uniquely, it allows users to drag a course with their finger, and have the Surface table recalculate their route based on desired scenery, slope of roads, temperature and other ultra-granular settings.

Police Dispatcher by ESRI

 

Like some of ESRI's other apps, Police Dispatcher is a modified WPF application that uses Surface's robust touch interface, rich graphics and extra map libraries to make an existing app much more capable.

Surface DJ by Vectorform

This collaborative music app allows users to create music by adding or subtracting tracks and sounds scattered around the table.

Tonegrid by Stimulant

Tonegrid lets users create music sequences by connecting different sounds on a grid and adjusting their timing.

 

Table Toss by Razorfish

If you've ever thought that bean-bag tossing games needed a 21st century equivalent, here you go. In this game, players throw real bean bags onto virtual targets.

Staff Directory by Razorfish

Razorfish has embedded tags in all their business cards that allow them to be readable by Surface. Put a card on the table, and you get all that person's VCF information--plus blog posts, tweets, Flickr photostreams and more.

 

Jewelry by Phenomblue

This proof-of-concept app lets customers design custom jewelry right inside a store, allowing them to see their creations before they place their order.

 

The Pits by Phemonblue

The pits is pretty much what it sounds like: a stomach simulator that allows a pharmaceutical client to demonstrate how their drugs work inside the human digestive system.

Surface: The Pits from Phenomblue on Vimeo.

XRay by Stimulant
XRay is a photo app for Surface that mashes up with Apple's iPhone. Put an iPhone on the table, and any image on Surface will be transmitted onto the iPhone screen in real time.

DaVinci by Razorfish
DaVinci is an experimental app that allows users to draw and manipulate objects using a real-world physics engine to simulate movement.

Genesis by Phenomblue
Created by Phenomblue specially for South by Southwest, Genesis is a 3-D app that allows viewers wearing special glasses to create virtual galaxies with mere swipes of their fingers.

SonicSpree by Connecta
SonicSpree is a six-player music quiz for Surface that lets a whole group compete in their knowledge of songs, bands and singers. Developed in conjunction with Ergonomidesign.

BMW Product Navigator by Vectorform
The BMW 7-series configurator allows potential customers to build their own BMW on-screen at any participating BMW dealership, and export their design to an external USB drive along with spec sheets, video and photos.

Patient Consultation Interface for Texas Health

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In conjunction with Texas Health Resources, Infusion built a demo app that shows how a digital health care system could be streamlined using Surface for patient consultations. Doctors could use surface to explain procedures and anatomy, learn about drugs and grab patient info from RFID-enabled HMO cards.

Infusion's Microsoft Surface Blog

Sheraton Hotel Application

Sheraton 2

Sheraton's luxe hotel in Seattle is home to a custom Surface app built in collaboration with Microsoft. The virtual concierge allows guests to explore a constellation of media about Seattle, all while listening to local music and using maps to plan their day trips.

Sheraton Seattle Hotel

Barclay's Premier Account App

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Banking giant Barclay's uses a Microsoft Surface app to let its premier-level customers interact with their account information in an intuitive, fluid environment.

Microsoft Surface For Barclays Banks

Coldwell Banker's Home Search App

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Coldwell Banker Unveils Innovative Use of Microsoft Surface

MSNBC's Electoral Coverage App

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Developer Vectorform built several Surface apps specially for NBC News to use on-air, enabling political analyst Chuck Todd to interact with election results, trends, and maps to explore the last presidential election in real-time.

 

Microsoft unveils revolutionary device

Harrah's iBar

Microsoft Surface Harrahs

At their Rio Hotel in Las Vegas, Harrah's has filled the casino's iBar with Surface units built to play games, take drink orders and interact--or more accurately, flirt--with other Surface users across the bar.

Microsoft Surface Technology Launches in First-Ever Entertainment Venue, iBar at Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino

Churchend Primary School, United Kingdom

Surface isn't all about making a sale or entertaining guests. Students and teachers at a school in the U.K. have been running a pilot program to see how Surface apps can make learning vocabulary and foreign languages more intuitive.

First School in Europe to use Microsoft' Surface'

Phenom Restaurant App

Kyodai Ken Sushi Application 2

Surface partner Phenom developed this proof-of-concept app for restaurants and bars, to show how the hospitality industry can make ordering and learning about food entertaining and effortless.

Kyodai Ken Sushi Bar on Surface from Phenomblue on Vimeo.

 

Kyodai Ken Sushi Bar

Identity Mine Retail App

Identity Mine Still 2

Another proof-of-concept app for the hospitality industry, this one developed by Identity Mine, shows how customers could use Surface to design a custom snowboard, shop for different vintages of wine and order drinks with a few finger-flicks.

Identity Mine Microsoft Surface

Microsoft Mobile Connect

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One of Microsoft's in-house experimental apps is Mobile Connect, a Bluetooth-enabled app that allows a mobile phone to share multimedia and contacts with Surface just by placing the device on the screen and dragging information to and from the phone.

E-Sponder SuperBowl App

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Working with the City of Tampa and the organizers of SuperBowl XLIII, Surface developer E-Sponder experimented with using Surface's rich mapping interface to give Incident Command Staff a 3-D view of the cityscape and track emergency response resources.


Superbowl 43 Case Study

Tampa Authorities deploy latest technology for Super Bowl Security

Related: Can't Touch This From Issue 112 | February 2007

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6 Comments

  • Jennfiedler82

    I have been told there is an app (Brain something or other) that can be used with children with autism as an interactive speech assistive device. I am trying to find this app and find information on it. If you find anything along those lines I would appreciate it if you could e-mail me with info!

  • Gabriel Blanc-Laine

    This is a great list. You have missed however a few awesome Microsoft Surface applications developed in France by AFTER-MOUSE.COM such as Promo'Touch, an outstanding application that enables customers to visit 3D Model of apartments, to change the color of walls and the texture of the floors by the touch of a finger. Or an application for mobile retail stores that makes discovering and comparing devices a breeze (Internity). And a few more... So to be comprehensive in your outstanding list, you should check them out.

  • Jim Allen

    The Education application shown in the Churchend video is called Finguistics and was done by education specialists RM and the Microsoft Technology Centre in the UK. What has been interesting is how children just get Surface and how to interact with it; needless to say it is difficult to get them off the device and the added bonus is they are learning at the same time! :)

  • Jim Allen

    The Education application shown in the Churchend video is called Finguistics and was done by education specialists RM and the Microsoft Technology Centre in the UK. What has been interesting is how children just get Surface and how to interact with it; needless to say it is difficult to get them off the device and the added bonus is they are learning at the same time!

  • Jim Allen

    The Education application shown in the Churchend video is called Finguistics and was done by education specialists RM and the Microsoft Technology Centre in the UK. What has been interesting is how children just get Surface and how to interact with it; needless to say it is difficult to get them off the device and the added bonus is they are learning at the same time!

  • Jim Allen

    The Education application shown in the Churchend video is called Finguistics and was done by education specialists RM and the Microsoft Technology Centre in the UK. What has been interesting is how children just get Surface and how to interact with it; needless to say it is difficult to get them off the device and the added bonus is they are learning at the same time!