More so than nearly any other product on the market, Microsoft has excelled in bridging the gap between tablet and laptop with their Surface and Surface Pro lines. Given the widespread popularity of their hybrid device, it stands to reason that their Research and Development team would start thinking of ways to make it even cooler. Their latest foray into Surface add-ons brings us a product dubbed simply the DisplayCover, a keyboard cover that adds precious touchscreen real estate by housing its own e-ink touchscreen display.
Microsoft Applied Sciences (which is essentially Microsoft’s Research and Development division) is no stranger to thinking outside the box. Just this past January they debuted the Surface Hub, a humongous 84-inch 4K touchscreen display for the Surface that could be used as a visualization tool in presentations to large audiences. So it comes as no surprise that the golden child of their product line just got some techie love in the form of a fancy new keyboard outfit that actually adds a ton of useful features. The combination of multi-touch display and e-ink allows you to display the Start menu right on your keyboard, making switching between apps a breeze and, in the case of the Surface Pro 2, extending the primary screen’s real estate by up to 8 percent. It could be an especially helpful accessory for Photoshop users, with the e-ink display offering some of your more popular editing options such as magic lasso and smudging tools and again leaving more room on the primary screen for whatever you’re actually doing. Plus, since it accepts both touch gestures and stylus input, scribbling quick notes or adding a personal signature to a document is a piece of cake.
Sadly Microsoft’s DisplayCover is still only a prototype, but the model shown in last week’s YouTube video demoing its various uses indicates it’s pretty far along in the development process already. Plus, Microsoft has done their due diligence to ensure that if the device does ever come to consumer fruition, it will be a gadget you actually want to attach to your Surface. The e-ink material was chosen for the 1280 x 305 resolution display specifically for the purpose of reducing impact to battery life, while also adding the cool factor of the stylus for handwriting recognition. And Microsoft is still tinkering with some innovative additional uses for the e-ink accessory, such as a fully-functioning email client that exists only in the e-ink display and the ability to browse photo thumbnails directly from the DisplayCover.
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