This may be why Microsoft Surface exists:
Surfacescapes is a proof-of-concept project using the Microsoft Surface Table to play interactive role-playing games, in this case geek favorite Dungeons and Dragons. Players attach physical pieces to the virtual space, which includes all the cool drag and zoom interactions of other Surface apps. Calculations are automated and battles are animated with creatures intelligent enough to detect where the players are situated on the map when they move.
The project is the work of a team of designers from the Entertainment Technology Center at Carnegie Mellon University. Currently, they only have a basic Game Master tool set programmed, but the researchers are working to enhance the player experience.
The ETC is a world-class research lab dealing with everything from massive multi-player online games to wearable computing to entertainment robotics. All students are required to take a course in improvisational acting to help prepare them to solve problems with and through storytelling. The ETC was also home to Randy Pausch (of Last Lecture fame) until his death in 2008.
I wonder if Surfacescapes will evolve to capture more of the D&D culture, including when to order the pizza. The virtual dice rolling, however, definitely has to go.
[Fellow GeekDad John Baichtal contributed to the writing of this post.]