A Microsoft Surface Enterprise Search demo is being presented by Conchango on FASTforward’09. Richard Wand writes about their efforts to create a playful search experience, using Microsoft’s new multi-touch screen-table-surface technology. Words like engaging, social and entertaining are not often used to describe enterprise search solutions. So what is different about this demo?
Update: A longer video is available on YouTube, revealing more of the user experience. It’s clear to me that collaboration and exploration are the greatest strengths of Microsoft Surface. The enterprise search demo by Conchango reinforces that impression.
First of all, have a look for yourself. The trailer video gives us an impression of a multi-modal (and multimedia) search user experience. An ID card placed on the surface brings up a collection of user accounts. One account is then opened to reveal text, images and videos, all browsable with a finger’s touch.
Play is inter-twined with exploration, so I expect this search experience to work well for relaxed interaction with pictures, music, shopping etc. Exploration and discovery happens when you’re not after one right answer, but instead are looking to explore the possibilities. Richard makes a similar point, saying playfulness compromises efficiency, but that our obsession with efficiency is slightly unhealthy. Slow down for a moment, and enjoy beauty. That is an advice we should all consider.
Participating in a social search experience around a Surface could turn out to be quite efficient, actually. We’re likely to ask better questions when we’re thinking together, and that should accelerate our navigation. Socializing is important for everybody working in a company. Problems are solved over a cup of coffee, and our question is best answered by the guy in the office across the hallway. Documents contain information, while knowledge is the stuff found inside people’s heads.
The Surface Enterprise Search demo is a good example of multi-modal search, void of any traditional text query input. The trailer video doesn’t show how to type in a normal text query, at least. Is commercial multimedia search technology mature enough to extract and match metadata from images, videos and sound? When can we expect to abandon the old and trusted keyword search in favour of playful touch-screen search solutions like the one Conchango wants to show us?
Finally, Thomas Kjelsrud reports directly from FASTforward’09:
There was also cool demos on the Microsoft Surface using search to power visual interaction, a new way of doing work and finding information. Gemini was demoed, a Business Intelligence framework allowing users to act on 100 000 000 rows in an Excel environment. Getting reports, sorting and filtering in near-real time.