Surface Blades -- true innovation from Microsoft
Many years ago, my parents bought me the Atari Jaguar. While the system proved to be a failure, one of its features stuck with me as fascinating. Games could come with plastic inserts that fit over the controller's buttons. This enabled a game developer to enhance the experience of the game by offering visual representations of things like bombs and missiles instead of just pressing "1" or "2".
During yesterday's Surface 2 event, Microsoft announced a new accessory called The Surface Remix Project. This accessory plugs into the Surface keyboard port and replicates hardware buttons that a music producer or electronic performer may use. It may prove popular with professional musicians and amateurs alike. While making music may be well and good, you would be short-sighted to think it ends there.
You see, this is only one example of what Microsoft calls a "Blade" -- a customized input-device that plugs into the keyboard port of the Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2. The Blade doubles as a screen protector when carrying the device. Here are a few ways that I can imagine Blades improving or changing the world:
As I mentioned earlier, the Atari Jaguar controller had the ability to use low-tech plastic inserts to customize controls. Microsoft's Blade technology brings this to the modern world. Game developers can leverage this new technology to package a Blade with a game for a more customized and immersive experience. Something like a train simulator or role playing game can benefit largely from a large touch surface with customized buttons. Heck, even a first-person shooter can take advantage -- imagine a two-player co-op where one player uses a hand-held controller while the other operates tanks and launches missiles with the Surface Blade.
Whenever I go to the doctor or dentist, they often have clunky computer setups. Typically, it is a huge desktop hooked to a keyboard and the medical equipment. However, from my observations, the nurse or medical professional does not actually type, they simply press a key to start or stop the equipment. Imagine instead, each piece of medical equipment had a corresponding blade that allowed for a more focused interaction. This could potentially reduce medical mistakes and increase productivity.
People tend to put down fast-food workers for using a cash register with pictures of the food on it -- I don't. Not only do I respect fast food workers for actually working but a customized cash register is a smart idea. However, with Surface, I can see customized Blades for fast food menus. You could have it specifically designed for different times of the day -- a breakfast and lunch blade. This would allow restaurants to have a portable cash register with a very focused interaction.
Overall, the possibilities are truly endless. While we have seen similar customized interactions from devices such as the Atari Jaguar controller and Steelseries Zboard keyboard, the Surface Blade concept brings it to a new level.