Thank Eric H for this one. The reactable is a a different kind of instrument. It is essentially a synthesizer, but instead of using a keyboard it has a tabletop surface that reacts to specific objects placed on it. You really have to see it in action to understand what I mean.
More info after the jump.
Eric sent me a link to coverage of Bjork at the Coachella Music Festival. Supposedly this was one of the first times they/she used the reactable for a public performance. (Supposedly they also used at for the SNL performance the week before, but I didn’t see it in the video.) A site called Trend Hunter is crediting Bjork with introducing the instrument as well.
The reactable looks like an incredible instrument. It is simply used by placing object on the table that react and control each other based on their proximity and orientation. Think of it as patching various components on a rack and twisting knobs. All of this is determined by a video camera underneath the table, meaning the object themselves are passive. there are no electronics inside of them.
What is even more interesting to me, though, is how the relationship between objects is displayed. A projector also sits underneath the table and shows oscillating waves and patterns moving between the objects. Overall it looks like a very intuitive, fun instrument and I wish I could get my hands on it!