Thursday, April 30, 2009

Microsoft Surface Development Environment

Continued from my previous post: Introduction to Microsoft Surface.

Surface Application Development Kit
Microsoft Surface applications are developed using WPF. You need Surface SDK Version 1.0 which is available only to some conference attendees and Microsoft partners. If you don’t have an actual Surface device, the SDK can be installed on a Windows computer; and the Surface Simulator from the SDK can be used to test the applications.

Here are the prerequisites for Surface SDK 1.0
The SDK will install all required Surface libraries, Surface Simulator, Sample Applications, Documentation and Visual Studio project templates for Surface.

Surface User Experience
Before we get into the actual application development, let us see how Surface UX is different from conventional windows based applications. Even though the Surface application is running on top of Windows, the end user will not see any signs of it. Instead, the Surface device will be showing an attract application (similar to screensaver) which fills the complete display area. There will be four access points in the corners to open Launcher and explore available Surface applications. Note that only one application will be visible at a time. There is also an I’m done button to close all the applications and to return to the attract mode.

The above screenshot from the SDK documentation shows various parts of the Launcher (1. Application title | 2. Application description | 3. Application preview image | 4. Application icon image | 5. Access points | 6. I'm done button)

Surface Simulator
Surface Simulator is a Windows application with a fixed size (1224 × 868) used to simulate the actual Surface unit experience. It can be launched from ‘Start Menu > All Programs > Microsoft Surface SDK 1.0 > Tools > Surface Simulator’. Once the Surface Simulator is launched, any Surface applications launched there after will get displayed within the Simulator window.

Surface recognizes three types of contacts viz. Finger, Blob (any objects), and Tagged object (objects with a tag mark similar to barcode). There are two types of tags namely byte tags (up to 256 unique values) and identity tags (still in beta but supports more values).

All these contacts can be placed on the Simulator using the equivalent buttons as shown in the image below.

This screenshot shows the Data Visualizer sample application from SDK which is displaying the contact information.

To choose a contact on the application, the equivalent button is selected from the tool bar using mouse or its short key is pressed. The mouse pointer is then changed to the selected contact icon. For Tagged objects, the tag value can be specified in the adjacent text box.

To place a contact click and hold using the left mouse button, and to leave the contact there, click on the right moue button after that.

To remove a contact, choose the same contact selector, hover it on the placed contact, click left button and hold and then click right button of the mouse.

To rotate contact, use the mouse scroll wheel.

To select placed contacts, use the Contact Selector button. Drag a box around required contacts to select more than one. After selection, the contact can be moved around, rotated, and resized. To remove the selection click anywhere outside the contacts.

Below are the short cut keys available in Surface Simulator:
  • Ctrl+F: Finger contact
  • Ctrl+B: Blob contact
  • Ctrl+T: Byte tag contact
  • Ctrl+I: Identity tag contact
  • Ctrl+S: Contact selector
  • Ctrl+H: Hides all contacts
  • Ctrl+S: Removes all contacts
The Surface Simulator also has a recording tab which can be used to record a set of actions (placing and movements of contacts) on the application. The recording is saved as a script file (*.scs) which is nothing but an xml file with key frames of contacts against time.  It is very useful to reproduce scenarios during testing of an application.

Continued to Developing Microsoft Surface Applications

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