I talked several times about how future technology will impact RPGs.
Peering into my Crystal Ball
The Future of RPGs? One more piece fell into place
I basically hypothesized several parallel paths that future technology will have an impact on RPGs: Virtual Tabletops, E-books, and Surface Computing.
I found that a team at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh are hard at work on the surface computing angle. There was a team in Brazil that had built a battleboard using a custom built rig. The CMU guys are apparently using Microsoft Surface and D&D 4th edition rules to build their system.
This is their website. And this is a video of what they are doing. They are calling their project Surfacescape. Unfortunately their website is not the best. They should have tested on people running higher resolutions and browsers other than Internet Explorer.
A few quick thoughts.
1) The they should look at fantasy grounds on how to do virtual dice. Their virtual dice is way too sluggish. Fantasy Grounds animation timing on the dice roll is pitch perfect.
2) The 3D Virtual monster seems like a good idea but in reality should be focusing more on incorporating physical miniatures. If people buying what is a big expensive battlemat do not want to play a computer game. They want help with what they are already doing which is pushing stuff around a table or board. Surfacescape with just touch is just a novelty, Surfacescape with pushing miniatures around is damn cool.
3) Like the dice the monster moves way too slow. Probably should not have any animation at all.
4) In general they should shy away from using heavy animation. It may attract people and investors but will cause the product to fail in actual use as it will be perceived as sluggish and unresponsive.
5) While it understandable that 4th edition D&D would be chosen as it first target. Keep in mind that you should have rulesets, like Virtual Tabletop , that developers can swap out so they can play different board games and RPGs.
The CMU team has built a solid foundation in their demo and it will be interesting to see how it is developed further.