When I was a kid, occasionally my parents would announce that it was time to play a board game together. One of them would then disappear into some rarely-visited part of the house to dust off Monopoly or something similar. As I got older, board games still played a part in my life for dinner parties with titles like 'Trivial Pursuit' and 'Pictionary'. Over the last decade or so, these seem to have disappeared, but now could be on the brink of a major resurgence.
Back in 2008, Microsoft announced something called 'Surface' at CES. You can see the video for it here. As you can see from the picture, it is a large (and as I recall, heavy) coffee table comprised of a 30″ touch panel LCD with a PC built into it. It was interesting but never really got anywhere. It was too expensive, took up too much room, and sadly, never got enough developers to create applications for it on any major scale. The touch was also kind of clunky.
Last year, in 2011, Samsung announced the SUR40. It was much sleeker than anything seen before and positioned itself as a product for collaborating on projects. A slightly odd concept, it is still available for sale, I found one here from Best Buy for a whopping price of $8,600. Samsung has the Windows 7 Professional based embedded table top on its website here. The 'table' has a 40″ screen and an AMD Athlon X2 2.9 GHz dual-core processor to power it. The SUR40 also has an AMD Radeon™ HD 6570M graphics card. Interestingly, it also has Microsoft PixelSense™ technology to see and respond to touch and objects with optical tags. It recognizes and reacts to more than 50 points of contact simultaneously, letting several people use the SUR40 at the same time. I say "interestingly" because Microsoft just bought Perceptive Pixel, leading to speculation about what is coming next in this area. I think it is possible we may see an entirely new product coming from Microsoft.
Take a look at the image of the SUR40 above and imagine that the screen itself is not on legs. There are now super thin LCD technologies that would make it practical to have a product that was just a screen that could be stored away when not needed and brought out for playing board games, or browsing pictures, or playing electronic cards, or even turn the screen into a poker game. The electronics to power the screen, without huge power supplies or noisy fans, have been available for a while and could be incorporated into the screen itself (much like a tablet does today).
Let us call this the 'X-Board' for fun. Now you have a device that once again brings a family around a table because it can be used for just about anything social and table-related, except for eating. I imagine that we might need to keep food and drinks well away, which might be the one issue with the concept. Spilling drinks on it may mean the end of the device and would invalidate the warranty. However, since spilling a drink on an iPad does not kill it, then it should be possible to do the same here. If they do make such a product it will be a lot of fun to try.
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