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Secrets of the Surface Book's design process revealed

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 (opens in new tab).

See at Microsoft Store (opens in new tab)

41 Comments
  • First we start with some metal and a dash of fairy dust...then we mix it together with unicorn dreams...last we finish it with a mothers love for her new born baby....voila! A surface book. 
  • For a moment there, I thought you were listing the ingredients for Gwyneth Paltrow's $200 smoothie. ;-) Posted from Windows Central for Windows 10
  • not just "some metal", it must be pure mithril.
  • Are you saying the Surface Book is a kingly gift?
  • This may be featured in Doodle God. Should add Muscle element too.XD
  • even though I should feel offensive since I am a Materials engineering scientist, but it is very funny.
  • Offended, surely. Posted on a L950XL with Fingers 10
  • Now we just wait a couple of years for Samsung and/or Apple to copy it to a 'T' and have a huge unveiling to show everyone the design they spent countless years on.
  • This is 100% true
  • At this point I don't think that Apple even has the ability to create a half way decent copy any more. Look at the iPad Pro. Take their existing offering, add a pen, and it becomes a new product. Then try to replicate the spirit of the keyboard, and they completely screwed it up to the point of you need to be an origami master to use it. iFans like to make fun of the hinge on the Surface Book, but then the keyboard for the iPP had a huge "tent" in the middle of it. The pen needs to be recharged and does so in a very inelegant way (the antenna). And then there is just the usefullness of it. People like to claim that Surface is compromised, that it doesn't know if it is a tablet or a laptop, while the iPP is even more compromised, not offering the basics of what a pro device should offer. When you go to sites like Engadget or Verge, or even this one, you will see the Apple fans whining and complaining about haters, and how mean everyone is towards poor, innocent Apple. But when you go to hard-core Apple sites, macrumors, 9to5mac, etc. they are panicing. That they have lost their touch, that they held a press conference to announce a watch band and a machine that recycles old phones, they are introducing so many models that it is confusing people. Apple isn't even able to copy properly, they have become a casualty of their own making. No, they are not going to collapse tomorrow, next week or even next decade, but they have quickly burned through their dominance. Microsoft was in the lead for decades, Apple had the lead in one segment for a few years but are not what they were under Jobs.
  • You kinda wonder why they haven't thrown their weight behind modbook inc.
  • Speech. MSFT has been on the ride and they know how to stay on. When I watched a program where Bill Gates and Steve Jobs faced off, Bill Gates was very open when he spoke about what MSFT has been doing and what they are doing but Jobs didn't. And Jobs was quick to say he knows it's unfair. I think they've not got so many things or innovations like MSFT. They keep recycling their old materials and hardware's. They include just one feature and people are bragging about it. Look at continuum, windows hello and even our very own Cortana. Then I almost cried when Panos Panay unveiled the surface Book. It's absolutely brilliant. Nothing comes close. It's the ultimate laptop. Very great innovation. You could hold it from the head and it doesn't fall off, then it is very easy to pull out. Who does that? People seem to hate MSFT and that's understandable. Who doesn't hate leaders? Who isn't always quick to find the fault of leaders?
  • 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
    Clever lady, and stuning to boot, man I envy beautiful people who are also damn clever!
  • I'll just sit here and enjoy your envy then. The Windows Central Universal Application for Windows 10 Mobile on a Nokia Lumia 830
  • LOL
  • Just looked her up since you said that. WOW, she's gorgeous!
  • Wow she's gorgeous. I just looked her up since you did.
  • Wow! Fascinating. I have a WIRE STENT in one of my cerebral arteries that is made of the NITINOL alloy put in during a stroke that nearly took my life. It's changing shape makes it fit an artery like a glove and still maintain it's structure. Amazing to know of other uses of this wonderful materiel. Ingenious, Microsoft.
  • Damn that must've been expensive
  • ...not compared to the life it saved. ☺
  • Glad you're okay and still with us! Posted via Windows Central app for Windows 10!
    Proudly rocking my Lumia 1520!
  • Ha! Just saw your post. In happy other people are happy to share this planet with others as well. Lots don't care :(
  • That's amazing. Glad you're still with us btw!
  • What haven't seen batman begins
  • Meanwhile in Cupertino.... Tim Cook has just clicked +Follow to this article.
  • Haha ;)
  • That's pretty neat!!
  • Didn't Bruce Wayne also use this to make his cape go rigid for gliding?
  • Wait. Is that what all those spam emails I keep deleting are about?
  • Lol same thought
  • Microsoft should leave some things secret since they already let other take technology they've created and make it better or simply use it and advertise it as their own since Microsoft choses not to market or in most cases bot introduce shown tech into their own products.... ie windows phone (MixView, exploding tile, 3-D touch, etc). Many of these items are considered gimmicks, but they sure do attract a lot of users to Android! Posted via Windows Central app for Windows 10!
    Proudly rocking my Lumia 1520!
  • I just got one of these for work and I've got to say it's fantastic.  Great build, nice features, and a hell of a lot nicer to carry than my old laptop! I'm pretty impressed with everything (including the unique hinge).
  • I'm sure you've run all the updates on it. If not, be sure to do so.
  • Oh yeah... I've run all the updates.  There were definitely a few items that wouldn't work until all the software updates were installed (like the ability to run multiple monitors).
  • Here's a cool idea for Microsoft: On the next Surface Book, put muscle wire inside the fulcrum hinge as well, not just on the clasp attaching the hinge to the display. Then, add a touch sensor to the outside cover of the display or on the lip below the touchpad on the base so the user can swipe it and presto! The laptop automatically opens itself. You don't need to pry it apart to manually.
  • Or use voice commands, "open sesame".
  • Haha... Made me think of that monster book thing in harry potter where you had to stroke the spine to open it!
  • Hopefully the next one has a better screen attachment. I am super interested in the Surface Book, but no way do I believe that electromechanical release is going to work for more than a year. Also the hinge gap is wierd. Just use a clamshell style like ASUS and it will be mostly thinner and have a reliable attachment method. Waiting for next versions to choose between Surface Pro or surface book.
  • I'd love to see the Surface Book hinge make its way to the Band. Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • Nitinal has been around for over 30 years. Glad to see some uses are actually being made of it. I got a sample of it when it was first being marketed with dreams of make artificial muscles for prosthetics using bundles of individual strands much like real muscle. I became a musician instead.
  • I can't afford the thing, so I can't put my money behind it, but that gab when its closed is absolutely beautiful. I think its an awesome design feature that really gives the "book" it's name.