TechEd Australia RFID badge Surface application

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If the standard Microsoft Surface demo applications doesn’t cut it for you anymore then check out this custom application built by an Aussie Readify consultant Tatham Oddie in just two days who hadn’t seen a Surface until a day ago (sponsored by Amnesia actually).

Since all TechEd badges are RFID-enabled A special sticker was placed on the back of the TechEd badge, he took advantage of this to build a TechEd sessions scheduler that works by placing the badge on the Surface. He also mentioned that if you had two badges on the Surface at once you could even share sessions by dragging it from one badge to the other.

Video credit Edward Hooper.

13 insightful thoughts

  1. I like the concept, but the display style is impractical. The sessions we displayed like the other surface photo demos we’ve seen, probably making the same API calls. Items randomly distributed and rotated across the table isn’t a particularly intuitive way of viewing information, especially that of a list, like a schedule (sessions).

    That said it was built quickly, I have no doubt that with more time this could become a fantastic use of Surface. Rather than just read the description of a session, I’d like to easily compare which upcoming sessions I have in common with another attendee.

  2. I am with Jason on this one. This is good for one-time applications (yes, hotel lounges and airports), but wider usage patterns will require huge programming and design work, with no resemblance to current usage patterns and UI guidelines.

  3. Jason + Jiri – In many ways I agree with you here too.

    You are correct about it using the same API calls. This is one of the things makes Surface so powerful – it is an interface platform so that we can get consistent feel between application, and reduce the development complexity. I personally think that consistency of the physical experience (flick sensitivity, etc) is key to the device being usable as a whole.

    I also agree with you that randomly scattered cards isn’t the most useable way of accessing session data.

    The concept for this app was that multiple people could sit around the table, place their badges on it and start browsing sessions. For example, if a friend and I wanted to decide which session to go to next we could each put our badge down and choose the next timeslot. We could then “pass” the session cards to each other across the table. “Hey, check out this session”. Once we each decided, we could grab the session we were each interested in drop it on our schedule. Picking up the badge and walking away from the table fades out the timeslot I was looking at to clear up the display for other users.

    How can this be done better than random? UI for Surface apps is actually going to require some thinking by the app developer. It’s quite conceptually different because it’s a 360 degree UI – people can be sittng around the table at all different angles and they all need to be able to interact with it. In this example we know the orientation of the badge and could align cards based on that, but you still need to be able to grab them and rotate them to show another user.

    I hope that gives you a clearer understanding of why I chose the interface I did.

    Thanks for putting the video up Long!

  4. @Manan Don’t worry – you’re not being left out! This particular device is in Australia as a technical preview only. It is not yet commercially available here and it’s still quite controlled. The Surface team will start announcing their commercialisation plans when they are ready.

  5. @Raf It’s not actually RFID – Long has corrected the post title. The Tech.Ed badges do have RFIDs in them, but the Surface does not read these. Instead we used a special sticker on the back of the badge with a combination of dots. This way, not only can we find out the badge number, but we can also track the position and the orientation of the badge. Because RFIDs are radio based, this would be extremely hard to achieve accurately and responsively.

  6. I think the biggest problem with the surface will be the “this is a digital desk” metaphor. The video in my opinion illustrates quite nicely the same problem you face when you have too many pieces of paper sitting on your desk. You ended not finding what you are actually looking for.

    I know, I know… you could have a search interface. But why fix a bad concept with another tool. Why not fix the concept in first place.

  7. I think it’s a great concept – the surface, obviously the right application for the right machine.

    Freeing up the more traditional approach of a keyboard/mouse to drive the interaction with the surface is great!

    Having an ‘intelligent’ surface/table/wall is a great idea – we can get relevant information based on how we interact with it.

    We could have done the RFID tag read piece….maybe next year guys!!! :)

  8. Wow technology costing $10,000 to reproduce a messy desk of papers! It may be great couldn’t I achieve the same goal with a cheap barcode scanner and a cheap PC?

    Have the nerds blinded themselves too much with their own technology?

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