Surface Hub for Research

Established: April 2, 2015

Academic Research Request for Proposals

surfacehub292x180Microsoft Research and Microsoft are committed to pushing the boundaries of technology to improve and positively influence all parts of society. New devices and form factors are creating opportunities for transforming status quo processes in ways that were unimaginable just a few years ago. The Microsoft Surface Hub is an exciting, new large-screen pen and touch device that can be used to create new experiences and be a valuable productivity aide.

Microsoft believes the Surface Hub will be as empowering and as transformative to teams and the shared work environment as the PC has been to individuals and the desk. We are thus developing business productivity and collaboration apps that take advantage of the Surface Hub’s unique modalities for multi-person input, collaboration, and brainstorming. But we know that these capabilities will be equally valuable in the home and classroom—in fact, in any venue where people need to come together to think, ideate, and produce—and we’re eager to involve the academic community in fully exploiting the Surface Hub’s potential.


PI name University Project title
Don Greenberg Cornell, United States Digital Drafting Board for Architecture
Ruigang Yang University of Kentucky, United States Real-Time View Synthesis for Tele-presence

Jan Rieman

Max Muhlhauser

Technische Universitat Darmstadt, Germany Mixed-Focus Collaboration and Tangible Data Analytics
Aaron Quigley University of St Andrews, United Kingdom Intelligent Canvas for Data Analysis and Exploration
John Stasko Georgia Tech, United States Data Driven Decision-Making via Visual Analytics

Andy van Dam

Tim Kraska

Emanuel Zgraggen

Brown University, United States Collaborative Insight Extraction from Structured and Unstructured Data
Tracy Hammond Texas A&M, United States Sketch and Gesture Recognition for Collaborative and Design Interfaces

Michel Beaudouis-Lafon

Wendy Mackay

Universite Paris – Sud, France Mulithub: Collaboration and Interaction in Multi-Surface Environments
Ken Mai CMU, United States Modernizing Perioperative Anesthesia Scheduling and Management
Andruid Kerne Texas A&M, United States Collaborative Pen+Touch Design Ideation on Large Surfaces


The primary goal of this RFP is to expand the potential applications of the Surface Hub across all aspects of society, from the workplace to the home to educational settings and beyond. Additional goals are to stimulate and advance academic research on this new platform and to encourage applications of Surface Hub for novel purposes.

We’re looking for research proposals that will investigate new ways that Microsoft Surface Hub can contribute to work, learning, communication, and collaboration. Proposals are invited from, but not limited to, the following areas of interest:

  • Data visualization
    • Example: using touch enabled tools to manipulate data
  • Evolution of pedagogy in STEM, medical, and design education
    • Example: using Skype-enabled apps for education collaboration (e.g., interactive meetings for medical training)
  • Future of communication and distributed collaboration
    • Examples: remote training and support, and virtual conferences (e.g., use of multiple platforms and a variety of devices toward a common goal)
  • Human computer interaction
    • Examples: human-computer interaction around pen+touch, large displays, and second screen scenarios
  • Solving difficult problems and contributing new insights that are specific to the applicant’s field

Monetary and hardware awards

  • Microsoft anticipates selecting approximately 10 winning proposals. The awards will consist of up to US$25,000 and one 55″ or 84″ Surface Hub (with appropriate stand) to each winner. All awards are in the form of unrestricted gifts, which are delivered directly to the principal investigator’s (PI) associated institution (see Eligibility for eligible institutions) for funding the winning proposals.
  • The awards are intended to be used for seed-funding larger initiatives, proofs of concept, or demonstrations of feasibility. Note: funding is not expected to continue after the first year and that the PIs who are granted the Microsoft Surface Hub Research Awards should therefore make every effort to use the award as one component of a diverse funding base in a larger or longer-running project. Proposals with a clear plan to secure co-funding are encouraged.


This RFP is not restricted to any one discipline or tailored to any particular methodology. We encourage the submission of proposals from cross-disciplinary teams.

To be eligible for this RFP, your institution and proposal must meet the following requirements.

  • Institutions must have access to the knowledge, resources, and skills necessary to carry out the proposed research.
  • Institutions must be either an accredited degree-granting university with a non-profit status or a research organization with non-profit status.
  • Proposals that are incomplete or request funds in excess of the maximum award will be excluded from the selection process.
  • The receiving institution must agree that the award is an unrestricted gift, will not be subject to indirect costs or overhead charges, and these charges may not be included in the budget for the proposed project.
  • While we will accept multiple proposals from a single university, we do have a limited number of devices and funds. To optimize the chances of receiving an award, we encourage researchers from the same university to consider submitting a single, joint proposal (rather than multiple individual proposals) that benefits from their various skills and interests to create the strongest possible proposal.

Submission process

This RFP is now closed.

All proposals were due by midnight (Pacific Daylight Savings Time) on June 12, 2015.

Microsoft Research shall have no obligation to maintain the confidentiality of any submitted proposals. Therefore, proposals should not contain information that is confidential, restricted, or sensitive. Microsoft Research and Microsoft reserve the right to make the winning proposals publicly available, except those portions containing budgetary information.

Project proposal requirements

Length: The proposal should not be more than seven pages in length* of Times New Roman 11 point font. Any documentation beyond that length will not be included as part of the proposal review.

*The seven-page limit does include the cover page, but the proposal body can start on the cover page if you need the additional space.

Cover page: The proposal should have a cover page that provides the following information:

  • Biographical information and contact information: This should include a brief description of any relevant prior research, publications, or other professional experience.
  • Project proposal abstract: The abstract should contain the following:
    • A nontechnical description of the project that states the problem to be studied, and explains the project’s broader significance and importance.
    • A technical description of the project that states the goals and scope of the research, and the methods and approaches to be used.

Proposal body: The body of the project proposal contains details of the proposed project that will be subjected to peer review by Microsoft researchers and potentially scholars in the field. The project proposal should include, but is not limited to, the following information.

  • Project description: What set of questions will be addressed? How will they be addressed? How will answering these questions help advance what is known about the use of this type of device?
  • Approach: What is the methodological and theoretical approach that the researchers will address? Exactly how will the researchers go about answering the question? Describe how the researchers will handle the legal and ethical challenges of doing work in this area.
  • Hardware and software platform: Proposals should specify whether they are seeking a 55” or 84” Surface Hub. Applicants are encouraged to keep in mind that the device will run only Windows 10 UAP applications. (Learn about the Windows developer environment.)
  • Expected results: Briefly describe what new knowledge is likely to be generated as a result of this research and why this information is important to understand.
  • Related research: Briefly summarize related research, including references where appropriate.
  • Researchers’ roles: Describe the role of each researcher involved in the project and explain how their skills and knowledge enable them to address the proposed research.
  • Schedule: What milestones will be used to measure progress of the project during the year and when will they be completed? If the project is part of a larger ongoing research program, estimate the time for completion of this project only.
  • Use of funds: Provide a budget (in U.S. dollars) describing how the award will be used. The budget should be presented as a table with the total budget request clearly indicated.
  • Other support: Include other contributions to this project (cash, goods, and services), if any, but do not include the use of university/organization facilities that are otherwise provided on an ongoing basis. Note: authors of winning proposals will be required to submit an original letter on their institution’s letterhead, certifying the commitment of any additional or matching support described in the proposal.

Selection process and criteria

All proposals received by the submission deadline and in compliance with the eligibility criteria will be peer-reviewed by a panel of subject-matter experts chosen from Microsoft. Based on evaluations by the review panel, Microsoft Research will select which proposals will receive a device and funding. Microsoft Research reserves the right to fund winning proposals at an amount greater or lower than the amount requested, up to the stated maximum amount. Note: due to the volume of submissions, Microsoft Research cannot provide individual feedback on proposals that are not funded.

All proposals will be evaluated based on the following criteria:

  • Addresses an important research question that, if answered, has the potential to have a significant impact on that challenge.
  • Potential for wide dissemination and use of knowledge, including specific plans for scholarly publications, public presentations, and white papers.
  • Ability to complete the project based upon adequate available resources, reasonable timelines, and the identified contributors’ qualifications.
  • Qualifications of principal investigator, including previous history of work in the area, successful completion of previous funded projects, research or teaching awards, and scholarly publications.
  • Possible additional information as requested by the review panel, which might be requested via a conference call.


  • As a condition of accepting an award, principal investigators agree that Microsoft may use their name and likeness to publicize their proposals (including all proposal content except detailed budget information) in connections with the promotion of the research awards in all media now known or later developed.
  • Researcher will be willing to engage with Microsoft about their project and experience, and possibly provide feedback via monthly calls, as well as attend two workshops in Redmond, Washington, with a development team. One workshop will likely be held in December of 2015 and another in May or June of 2016.
  • The review process is an internal one and no feedback on the reviews will be given to submitters.
  • Microsoft Research encourages researchers to publish their work in scholarly venues such as journals and conferences. Funded researchers do not need to seek Microsoft Research’s approval prior to publication, but should share a draft of their articles with Microsoft Research.
  • Funded researchers must seek approval of their institution’s review board for any work that involves human subjects.
  • Microsoft Research makes no claims on any of the data collected as a part of this research, but at the completion of the project, the funded researchers will be required to submit to Microsoft Research a white paper that describes what was learned from this project.


Proposal Questions

Q: Should the proposal include biographies of all researchers or just the PI?

A: The bio of the PI is sufficient unless there are other researchers making significant contributions who you would like to highlight in the proposal

Q: Should the expense of attending the two workshops in Redmond be included in the project budget?

A: Yes. The cost of attending the workshops should be accounted for in your budget. If your total budget includes only the $25,000 from Microsoft, then a portion of those funds should be allocated to this expense.

Q: Should I include the cost to purchase a Surface Hub in my budget?

A. No. Winning proposals will be awarded Surface Hubs as unrestricted gifts in addition to any funds awarded.

Q: Does the seven-page limit for the proposal include the cover page?

A: Yes. The seven-page limit does include the cover page, but the proposal body can start on the cover page if you need the additional space.

Q: May I request more than one Surface Hub in my proposal?

A: Yes, you may request multiple devices, provided they will all be used to support the research goals described in your proposal.

Q: When will winners be notified?

A: We plan to complete the review process and notify winners by July 1, 2015; however, that date may change depending on the number of proposals we receive.

Surface Hub Questions

Q: Will the Surface Hub work in a flat, tabletop position or in portrait mode?

A: No. The Surface Hub is designed to be used in a horizontal (landscape) position only, it cannot be used in a flat, tabletop position or in a vertical, portrait mode as this will degrade the performance of the device.

Q: How difficult is it to move the Surface Hub once it is set up?

A: If you submitted a winning proposal, you will receive a stand with your Surface Hub. The stand has wheels so that you can easily move the Surface Hub from room to room.

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