Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Using Microsoft Surface in the Finance Industry

Last night, some very smart people from BoNY, Citi and the like came together at New York's Microsoft Technology Center to discuss Surface's strengths and weaknesses in the finance industry.

The Quick Recap
Interest was the opposite of what I had imagined. Apparently, retail bankers at BAI were gaga for Surface, while the capital markets folks had trouble seeing Surface on trading floors.

Smartest Comment of the Night

"The real strength of vision-based touch devices is that they can measure both the location of a touch AND ITS DIRECTION. This enables a much more subtle, rich touch experience than capacitive sensing."
- A really smart guy who's name I missed.

Funniest Comment of the Night
"MS just spent two decades selling us the paperless office. Surface's object recognition features seem like a step backward. What are you selling us on: the Rock, Paper, Scissors office?"
~ Jules Roazen, Citi

While I continue to be fascinated by object tagging, Jules raises an inconvenient question:
What's it good for and how do operators make sure the right "Artifacts" stay near the table?

Sean Seibel and Chuck Billow of Microsoft have both made the point that ~650nm reflective ink can be printed or silk-screened onto brochures and the like. This way, generic brochures and other "throw-away" materials can be customized to the sales context.

I see Jules' point. Object tagging is most useful in situations where the "Artifacts" can effectively be stored and secured...for instance, not bank lobbies.

Josh Wall at Infostrat is exploring a range of interesting apps for military planning and field force management situations that seem more appropriate. Here's a demo from their office:

OK, illustrations of butterflies are less compelling than video of Iraqi insurgents, but one could easily imagine using this to magnify video from a drone, a satellite, or the like.

Another underutilized idea, once again out of Chuck Billow's beautiful brain and mentioned by Sean yesterday, is to measure the outline of objects instead of mere blobs. I recently saw a demo of this coded in a couple of days.

What Was Missed
It seemed that, in a lot of ways, yesterday's meeting missed the core value of Surface. It's not about being able to track 52 blobs or the ability to optically recognize a brochure.

The Point and Do Pitch to Retail Bankers
Your bank can help customers buy a home with the right information and without useless fights.

Forget reading generic brochures. For the first time, a husband and wife who are buying a house can go to one place to collaborateively create THEIR OWN customized brochure, with just the information they need:
- Available Housing Stock
- Desired Neighborhood
- Flood Plains
- Schools
- Realistic cost and approval estimates
- Insurance cost
- lifetime ownership costs
- Local taxes
- etc.
...instead of going to 15 different service providers to collect all of the info, and then wading through all the information they don't need.

Easier to buy. Less fights. More fun. How's that for a value add?

If anyone is interested in helping me bust out a demo of this, drop a line.

A shout out to Sean: Thanks for having me.

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