This looks fun to play with: it’s a sandbox combined with digital sensing and projection tools. You shape your sand, and it maps the surface:
Once your sandscape is constructed, you can simulate a forest fire on it, using a cigarette lighter as the ignition source, just like a real arsonist:
This isn’t quite as exciting to me as Jim Hines’ tangible user interface, because you can essentially change the initial conditions of your sandsystem, but not the structure of the model. However, it sure would be fun to play with, and could be pretty good at giving people insights about physical systems. It’s gone commercial as simtable.
I predict that this will soon go meta, with an ipad app that simulates the sandtable, allowing the user to push simsand around on the surface, flicking a lighter with a finger tap, creating the first virtual virtual forest fire environment.