Microsoft has unveiled a coffee-table shaped computer that responds to touch and to special bar codes attached to everyday objects.
The ‘Surface’ machines are essentially a Windows Vista PC tucked inside a shiny black table base, topped with a 30-inch touchscreen.
Five cameras that can sense nearby objects are mounted beneath the screen and people use the machine by touching or dragging their fingertips and objects such as paintbrushes across the screen.
Microsoft says it will initially sell the unit to corporate customers such as hotels, casinos, phone stores and restaurants.
Surface also features the ability to recognise physical objects that have identification tags similar to bar codes.
This means that when a customer sets a wine glass on the surface of a table, a restaurant could provide them with information about the wine they’re ordering, pictures of the vineyard it came from and suggested food pairings tailored to that evening’s menu.
The machines could also let people access information on the wine-growing region and even look at recommended hotels and plan a trip without leaving the table.
Surface will initially sell for between $5,000 and $10,000 (£2,525-£5,050) but Microsoft expects to produce cheaper versions for homes within three to five years.
Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer said: ‘With Surface, we are creating more intuitive ways for people to interact with technology.
‘We see this as a multibillion dollar category, and we envision a time when surface computing technologies will be pervasive, from tabletops and counters to the hallway mirror. Surface is the first step in realising that vision.’