One of the things that bother me more than anything else is seeing the reflection of finger prints on my computer screen. It seems that no matter how many times I wipe it down with those special disinfectant wipes they are always there. I'm not even sure how they get there in the first place; I certainly don't spend my days fondling the screen. But my compulsion to keep things clean is frequently set off by this constant nuisance.
So, when I was reading the paper this morning, this finger print problem is what instantly struck me when I read about Microsoft's new product, Surface. This new means of setting off my compulsive cleaning is an interactive table that responds to touch. The table will be able to read multiple touches simultaneously, download pictures from a wi-fi enabled camera that is sitting on its surface, and read digitally encrypted cards like hotel key cards.
According to The New York Times, Microsoft is planning to unveil Surface today at a The Wall Street Journal conference on everything digital in California. Here is an article from the Mercury News that describes some of the capabilities of the table as seen firsthand.
Surface will first be marketed commercially and already has buyers like Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide and Harrah's Entertainment. While I think this product may be a neat idea, a whole slew of problems (beside the fact that it will look dirty all the time) spring to mind.
First, there is my propensity to spill drinks on just about everything. I hope Microsoft has built-in some sort of safety mechanism for just such an occasion, since tabletops are usually where people tend to put their drinks first and are often the beneficiary of my martini faux-pas.
A more pressing problem, though, is technology rape. Surface seems like a whole new way to bring identity theft front and center. I imagine that if this device can read a hotel key card, it makes me wonder if it could be programmed to read my credit cards. I can already see myself unknowingly sitting my purse on the table in a hotel only to find that everything electronic has now been scanned by the table and is in the hands of any person who comes to touch the table next. In an instant I have been abused by what I thought was a seemingly innocent piece of furniture.
But alas, until Microsoft unleashes this bit of technological wonder onto the world, I will not know if my fears are unmerited. If you are at the unveiling today or have heard anything else about this electronic furniture, please share (and hopefully set my fears to rest)!