Today, when we visited NYU's Interactive Telecommunications Program spring 2008 show, we were immediately drawn to "Moving Parts," a crazy pinball game that's the brainchild and thesis of physical-interaction designer Daniel Soltis. It's made of real wood, with wooden buttons and plungers, but the board itself is empty, and stays that way. The game you see is merely a projection from above, but man does it feel real.

The experience is so immersive you forget that it's not real—no wonder real pinball is on the endangered-species list. The virtual kind gives you different types of play, four in fact:
• Cooperative, where you have two paddles on your side and one on your partner's side, and you both share a score
• Synchronized, where both sides tap the buttons simultaneously to make the paddles swing fully, so you lose if your partner doesn't help
• Competitive, straight-up pinballin'
• Multiball! You'll see this one at the end of the video, a total clusterfuck with balls flying everywhere

I give Daniel bonus points for cool virtual realism: The actual wooden playing board peaks in the middle, sloping downward. The virtual balls react to this, slowing as they roll uphill to the middle, then speeding up as they roll towards either end.

It was so much fun I almost forgot to ask what the point was. Daniel says that in the age of Wii, it's important to study interaction of players who are not necessarily competitors. Also, he likes to observe how mechanics affect gameplay. We couldn't get Daniel to admit he was merely trying to come up with a great game to sell to bars, but hell if he didn't invent that too. [Moving Parts; ITP]