That is a big desk!

Last week Microsoft demoed Surface 2, the new version of their Surface table. It has some pretty cool features, particularly a technology they call PixelSense, which lets the table visually recognize and scan almost any object placed on it without using cameras. Interactive Things pointed out the similarity to Starfire — a fascinating project I’d never heard of before.

StarFire was a future vision film, done in 1992 by Bruce Tognazzini at Sun. It shows some pretty cutting-edge (at the time) technology and UI ideas — when the web was still in its infancy. (As a point of reference, the film was done six years after Apple’s Knowledge Navigator film.) Included were: a curved immersive workstation, “cyberspace searching” (a precursor to the web), texture mapping of information from a 2-D video onto a 3-D mannequin, telepresence, and wireless networking. (For details on the deep thinking behind the project, Bruce has a good write up.)

As film-making, it’s strange and dated — a workplace scenario that reads like a soap-opera. The height of weirdness is when we voyeuristically watch a marriage propose taking place in another office. (You can see how big the production was in this making of video.) Crazy but fun.

Video conferencing / Telepresence.

Scanning text placed on the desk.

Video conferencing work session at desk.

Watching co-workers.

Dual chording keyboards

Search results.

Texture mapping a 3-D mannequin.