Google X isn’t the only tech lab with a forward-looking mentality. Microsoft’s research department has come up with some pretty clever ideas and concepts of its own including their latest, a thin-film, transparent sensing surface that could have a tremendous impact on how customers use the company’s Surface tablets.

FlexSense is an input surface that can, for example, be laid over the top of a Surface tablet. It can reconstruct complex deformations without the need for any external sensors like cameras. It consists of 16 piezoelectric sensors built into the periphery of a thin sheet what work in conjunction with two new algorithms.

That’s a lot of technical jargon to take in but after watching the video above, you’ll no doubt get a sense of the true potential that such a product possesses. While Microsoft does demonstrate some potential applications for the average user that are incredibly neat, it may not be entirely practical – at least, in its current state.

Of course, given the fact that this is a Microsoft Research project, one shouldn’t expect to see it show up in retail stores anytime soon. Like its other projects, Microsoft is essentially laying the groundwork for future implementations of the technology.

As the tablet market continues to cool, manufacturers will need to get creative if they want to continue to sell slates at the levels they have been. Research like this could be the first step in that movement.