Well this is something pretty incredible. SLAP widgets - peripherals that bring physical controls to multitouch surfaces - have evolved to the point where they can move themselves. What's that? Oh, just watch the madgets in action. It's something special.
The project, by researchers from the Media Computing Group, builds on the idea of SLAP widgets by adding electromagnets behind the touchscreen surface:
Our interactive tabletop combines electromagnetic actuation with fibre optical tracking. Unlike previous actuation approaches, our algorithm decomposes complex controls into multiple rigid bodies that are linked by joints. Beside arranging objects on the table, we make use of new actuation dimensions, such as height, vibration feedback, and power transfer. A grid of fibre optics lets cameras beneath the table see past the actuation hardware. Our tracking algorithm then detects Madgets and finger touches on the tabletop.