Curtin University touches Surface for education, medicine

Multi-touch, multi-user PC will be used to promote greater student collaboration

Perth-based Curtin University of Technology will become the first Australian educational institution to employ Microsoft's newly launched Surface multi-touch PC when it implements three of the devices later this year.

The university plans to use the devices to further student collaboration, as well as in its School of Education and forthcoming medical school.

This week, Curtin announced its partnership with Microsoft as part of the Surface's launch in Australia.

The multi-touch, multi-user device was first unveiled by the software giant 18 months ago, but has only now become officially available in the country. At the launch Microsoft touted the device's potential for organisations such as travel guide publisher, Lonely Planet, as well as in financial institutions.

According to Curtin IT Systems Engineer, Kim Wisniewski, the university sees teaching and medical education as key areas in which to incorporate the multi-touch device.

Wisniewski added it was particularly important to give aspiring teachers an "awareness of where this technology fits".

"We're faced with a younger generation who is almost going to expect this technology with their touch devices and mobile devices," he said.

The university also plans to utilise applications from Sydney-based software developer nsquared. The development company demonstrated basic educational applications based on MIcrosoft's Semblio and MultiPoint SDKs at the Surface launch, and has recently released the first training book on developing for the Surface.

However, Wisniewski said that the university is also "getting plans together to start building applications that are more relevant to the university space".

This includes the university's medical faculty, which is currently "one of the largest health professional providers in Perth".

The initial three devices will be installed in visible spaces on the university campus, with a focus on student collaboration. The university will educate staff on how to use the Surface and how to moderate use among students.

The Surface is being sold directly by Microsoft to customers at $21,000 each. In order to develop custom applications, the university will need to purchase at least one Surface SDK, at a cost of $24,500 bundled with a Surface device.

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