Inside the emergency command center of a large urban city, several officials huddle over a rectangular Plexiglass table. When the command center's director puts his identity card on the table it suddenly comes to life, with images of files floating up and opening on the glass screen.

He slowly waves his hand above the glass -- the movement sends several of the file images tumbling away -- and then taps on one of them. A video of an ongoing emergency response opens up. He spreads both hands across the moving image and it magically expands, showing the video in greater detail. A quick twist of his wrist and the video rotates so that the others around the table can watch.

Next, he places a camera on top of the table and numerous images tumble out. By waving his hand, he sorts through the digital photos until he finds the one he wants. Again, a quick hand stretch and the small thumbnail image immediately blows up.

A new scene from the 2002 sci-fi thriller, "Minority Report"?

No, just one possible public-sector application from the very real technology created by Microsoft called "Surface." In geek-speak, it's what's known as object recognition, in which off-the-shelf software, combined with miniature cameras, creates a dazzling technology tool that allows users to interact with objects and digital content using hand gestures.


View Full Story
Tod Newcombe, Editor  |  Editor, Public CIO