The Surface Book notebook first launched in November, with its detachable screen and its unique looking display hinge. Microsoft is offering some previously unrevealed information on how it designed the Surface Book, with a focus on those two elements.
In a blog post, Microsoft said that the members of the Surface design team looked to old folio books that can open in one piece as part of the inspiration for the hinge in the Surface Book.
The team's solution was to use muscle wire for both the hinge and the Surface Book's display detachment, based on ideas from Microsoft Industrial Designer Kait Schoeck, who had used it in a class to make robotic gloves:
Muscle wire (other names include nitinol wire and SMA, or shape-memory alloy) is a smart material that changes shape in response to external stimuli. For Surface Book, an electric current is applied, and it changes shape (or shrinks) to release the mechanical lever. The gloves that Schoeck created in that class were made to help prevent muscle fatigue and injury. Because of their thick, pressurized space suits, astronauts find it very difficult to maneuver and grip things in space. Schoeck's design included a sensor that caused the muscle wire along the length of the glove to gently bend, assisting the astronauts in gripping things rather than them forcibly fighting the gloves.
The Surface Book is currently available at the Microsoft Store starting at $1,499.