Microsoft's Surface, the interactive coffee table, is one of those inventions that appears awesome but then fails to really go anywhere: aside from a few in-store demos and an open-source versionthe technology has singularly failed to take the world by storm. Microsoft principle researcher Bill Buxton isn't willing to give up on Surface just yet, however - and claims that it could appear in homes within the next three years.

In an interview with The Globe and Mail, Buxton claimed that the reason Surface never caught on beyond niche market segments was "the complexity of the technology and the cost of manufacturing," with the sheer number of cameras required - five, if you're wondering - bumping the cost up to a point where average consumers just can't afford it.

In order to make Surface a feasible consumer product, Buxton envisions a future where the bulky camera-and-projector-infested table is replaced with "a big LCD where there's a fourth pixel in every triad [...] which is a sensor that will capture stuff."

While that might sound like a pipe-dream, Buxton claims that "sooner than you'd expect - but longer than I want - these things will come in at really cost effective prices and will start appearing in people's living rooms, dining rooms, game rooms, and so on and so forth. And I believe you will see that in three years."

The big question for any new product is, of course: what does it do for me? The killer app for Surface, Buxton believes, is gaming - "a board game, checkers [...] even Dungeons and Dragons."

Join us in three years' time on your coffee table when we look back to see how accurate Buxton's predictions really were.

Do you think that Surface could make a splash if only it weren't so bulky and costly, or have slates already become the new Surface? Share your thoughts over in the forums.

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