Microsoft’s Surface touchscreen technology for large displays has shed a lot of bulk in its newest iteration, and in the process it has also given liquid-crystal displays — the ubiquitous screens used in everything from laptops and smartphones to smart TVs — the power to see with its new PixelSense technology.

Unlike the bulky original Surface, which required a large cabinet to house cameras, the new version looks no thicker than a traditional LCD. Microsoft’s new PixelSense technology allows the new Surface displays to see without the need for a camera. It can recognize fingers, hands and other objects pressed directly onto the screen. At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, where the technology was unveiled, a Microsoft representative showed how it can recognize text written onto a piece of paper.

Microsoft worked together with Samsung to deliver the new version of Surface, which will be available for retail as the “Samsung SUR40 with Microsoft Surface”. The company lists Red Bull and the Royal Bank of Canada as early adopters of the new technology, and it will also be available in Microsoft’s retail stores.

The new Surface can be mounted on walls, instead of being something you look down on like the previous version. The Royal Bank of Canada will be using the displays to read forms that are mailed to its customers. With the new form factor, there are vastly more potential uses for Surface.

Microsoft says the Samsung SUR40 will be available in 23 countries worldwide later this year. The original Surface cost $12,500 for commercial buyers. Microsoft now says the new model will retail for $7,600 — still not a consumer-friendly price, but a welcome drop.
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