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Microsoft targets education with Surface computer

Touch-enabled table could be used in lessons

Microsoft hopes the education sector will prove a lucrative market for its Surface tabletop computer, and is demonstrating possible uses for the technology at this week's BETT show.

The software giant has been showing off the touchscreen table during keynotes and on the show floor at a range of exhibitions over the past year, claiming the product is ideal for hotel lobbies, retailers and restaurants.

Next on the agenda is the education sector, and Microsoft's demonstrations at BETT 2009 attracted a large number of onlookers.

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Among the applications Microsoft thinks might be applicable to schools and colleges are a photo viewer, where students can share, move and expand images with their fingers while sitting around a table, and Surface DJ, which allows users to create and edit music on a virtual turntable.

Perhaps more appropriate for traditionalists in the education sector is a history application which provides an interactive alternative to standard textbook and whiteboard-based learning. In one example, Microsoft showed how the table could display a map of the US, and allow students to view the changing political preferences of voters across the country over the past 200 years. They could also find out more information about each president, and swot up on facts and figures using interactive pages which could be moved around the screen.

In another demo, Microsoft demonstrated how the Surface tabletop computer could bring more interactivity to biology lessons, allowing children to explore internal organs of the human body, rotating and zooming in on a visual representation of the heart, for example.

Microsoft is using the BETT show to reach out to developers in an attempt to create new applications for the technology. The company has already been working with education specialist RM to produce Finguistics, a game that requires pupils to work collaboratively to spell out words, complete sentences or complete numeric sequences against the clock.

The Surface tabletop computer itself costs around £8,000 in the UK.


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