Okay, before you freak out over the title of this post, I’m talking about computers with touch surfaces. Got your attention though didn’t I?
I just read one of the coolest articles about computer and technology that I’ve read in a while. It was all about revolutionizing table-top gaming. That’s right, D&D with computers! This is all made possible by none other than Microsoft: the tech company that we all love to hate. A year or two ago, Microsoft announced a computer that looks a whole lot like a coffee table, and it was called Surface. We all thought it would be cool because they showed off how you could potentially split up a check at a restaurant, compare cell phone features, and various other things by doing nothing but sitting the objects on the table and letting Surface figure out what they are. Apply that to Dungeons and Dragons and you may very well have a sweet dynamic campaign map.
If you’ve never played D&D before then this may not be that interesting to you, but if you are a table top gamer, then this is going to be of great interest. Imagine that you sit down to play a game with your miniatures and your books, but you don’t have to draw out the maps by hand or guess whether somebody is in line of sight by looking at a bunch of squares. You can just put your pieces on Surface, let it show you the piece of the map that is visible from your characters point of view, and even choose an action or attack straight from the table! Now you can even roll dice simply by touch and throwing a virtual D20 (20-sided die for you non-nerds) across the table. I would definitely want my physical dice, but the option is totally there for people who may not have any.
This system has made so much possible for the world of table-top gaming. Imagine just having to click a button if you want to bring up a Monopoly board, or play a quick game of clue. You don’t have to go dig through your closet and attempt to find all the pieces; they will just be there when you need them. Everything is LITERALLY right at your fingertips.
There is no telling how much Surface is really going to cost for us casual consumers, but it may be very well worth it to have a fun, interactive coffee table for doing any number of things. This D&D scenario is most of the reason that I decided an iPad might not be a bad device to have. I just like the idea of having all of the D&D books right at my fingertips if I need it without having to lug around 10 pounds of books, if not more. Believe me, I understand the value of a printed book. I think it is SO very necessary that we have a physical record of everything. You never know when a massive EMP is going to come and blow out every hard drive on the planet. I don’t see it coming soon, but it very well may. Look at all the data we lost when the Library at Alexandria burned. Hundreds of years of human knowledge lost in a day. We need to avoid that. Copies, copies, and more copies need to be made of everything, and I don’t mean simply digital.
I’m excited about what touch computing can bring to the way we interact with technology. Do I think it is perfect for every application? Not at all. But I think that it will open some doors to some pretty awesome things that we wouldn’t be able to do with traditional interface systems. This is awesome stuff to think about, and I’m so glad to live in the time that we do. This next decade is going to be so cool.