Has Microsoft brought the future of computers to campus?

The university has created a new facility—called the Human Computer Interface Lab—based primarily on the study of Microsoft Surface. And higher-ed interest in the Surface spurred a conference last year of Midwest colleges and universities that have used the Microsoft product for educational purposes.

Developers from Ohio State University, Notre Dame, and Ball State University in Muncie, Ind., shared Surface programs such as an interactive map, photo exhibits, and music-related applications that allow users to play the drums, for instance, on the tabletop surface of the Microsoft machine.

Finding developers for the Surface won’t be difficult on college campuses, educators said. Striegel said drawing student and faculty interest to the futuristic computer has never been a challenge.

“Wherever it’s sitting, people are sort of drawn to it,” he said. “They want to check it out [to] see what it can do.”

If Microsoft Surface becomes affordable for large and small campuses alike, van Dam said, the product could help students become accustomed to gesture-based computer usage, moving away from the traditional mouse and keyboard model.

“I see it as an old-fashioned exploratory expedition,” he said.