In broad strokes, mankind's woodworking abilities have gone from 1) hand tools, to 2) power tools to 3) CNC machinery. And although the power tools step was a quantum leap from hand tools, it still requires you physically touch the material quite a bit, guiding and steadying it while performing your operations; with CNC, you only contact it when you're loading and unloading it into the machine. There is a materials disconnect with CNC, as you're not physically guiding the cuts, and you don't even have to be in the room when it's happening.
Which is why I found this human-computer-interaction concept from Germany's Hasso Plattner Institut so interesting. Called "Interactive Lasercutting," the researchers use a self-rigged lasercutter called the Constructable, and require the user to be present during the cutting. Rather than drawing up a CAD file, converting it into a tool path, loading the machine and taking lunch, the user is meant to stand over the machine and instigate each cut, or series of cuts, by "drawing" on the wood with a laser pointer. The machine then translates your sloppy strokes into precise cuts, something like handwriting recognition turning your chicken scratch into typography. Observe:
Hopefully you're able to disregard the clunky interface—all those styluses represent different types of cuts—and weird editing, and just focus on the concept: Do you think this has merit? For single-object production, could this actually be more efficient than doing the CAD/toolpath dance? I suspect not, but there's something I like about being able to stand over the material and manipulate it in real time.
See also: A Handheld CNC for 2D Applications