Microsoft Research’s scientists have shown off a new innovation at the Conference on Human Factors in Computing System, currently running until the 26th April in Montreal, Canada.
Their SurfaceConstellations is a modular hardware platform for linking multiple mobile devices to easily create novel cross-device workspace environments.
The platform combines the advantages of multi-monitor workspaces and multi-surface environments with the flexibility and extensibility of more recent cross-device setups. The SurfaceConstellations platform includes a comprehensive library of 3D-printed link modules to connect and arrange tablets into new workspaces, several strategies for designing setups, and a visual configuration tool for automatically generating link modules.
Microsoft contributed a detailed design space of cross-device workspaces, a technique for capacitive links between tablets for automatic recognition of connected devices (based in clips which overlap screens slightly and deliver a unique recognition touchpoint for software), designs of flexible joint connections, detailed explanations of the physical design of 3D printed brackets and support structures, and the design of a web-based tool for creating new SurfaceConstellation setups.
Microsoft is leaving the software side largely to the user, in some instances merely running different widgets on different devices or a different view of a web interface.
They note however that their intention is that their bracket system would bring cross-device applications to the masses, enabling anyone with access to a 3D printer and multiple tablets/phones to design and construct their own multi-surface workspace. To facilitate this Microsoft has made the SurfaceConstellations designs available as open hardware and open software and aim to inspire users’ creativity.
The full paper can be read here.