Microsoft Research has debuted a new project called SurfaceConstellations, which brings modular device interconnectivity to work environments. The team behind the innovation showed off the tech at the Conference on Human Factors in Computing System in Montreal Canada.

SurfaceConstellations provides a modular system through a connected hardware platform. At its core, the system allows multiple devices to be linked to efficiently create new cross-device workspaces.

Many professionals will be used to working in a multi-monitor environment, but Microsoft’s platform goes beyond a multi-screen experience. By creating a multi-surface experience, the platform can provide more flexibility. For example, it hosts a huge library of 3D-printed link modules highlighting some setup designs and strategies.

There is also a visual configuration tool for generating device link modules. Capacitive links are used between tablets to allow automatic syncing and connectivity. Essentially, these are clips that hook onto screens, while the 3D printed designs allow for easy creation of brackets and support structures.

In its paper, Microsoft Research says it was seeking more configurability in cross-device situations:

“Our goal with SurfaceConstellations is to bridge the gap between the power and effectiveness of multi-monitor workstations with the flexibility and ad-hoc configurability of cross-device computing. To implement this vision, we designed a novel modular platform that enables users to easily assemble a large variety of spatial multi-surface arrangements.”

Software

In terms of software, Microsoft is pushing SurfaceConstellations as a hardware platform. In other words, software will be in the hands of the user. This could include using widgets on devices to providing multiple web interfaces.

Microsoft says while it is focusing on the hardware side, it hopes the platform can spur developers. The company wants to see more cross-device applications created off the back of SurfaceConstellations.

Users with a 3D printer and multiple devices can create their own multi-surface environment. Microsoft says the designs are all open source, allowing anyone to see and use them.