Sony’s 3-Player Virtual Air Hockey Table Demonstrates the Power of AR

Sony’s exhibit at SXSW, labeled the Wow Factory, showcased a series of games, gadgets and prototypes, including a 3-player virtual air hockey table that uses augmented reality (AR) technology.

The game, which was developed specifically for SXSW, uses a physical hockey puck and three physical paddles, just like an ordinary air hockey table. But the round table uses Sony’s IMX382 visual sensors, which can track objects at an impressive 1,000 frames per second. One sensor sits below the players’ paddles and other sits above the table to keep track of the puck. A built-in overhead projector overlays the game interface with virtual pucks to create a more exciting experience.

Thanks to Sony’s software, physical pucks can interact with virtual pucks, sending them bouncing off to the side of the table. Each puck is equipped with a haptic sensor that vibrates each time you touch a puck.

The augmented reality technology adds a new layer of complexity and challenge to the game. Players are defending their goals while simultaneously trying to score goals. At the same time, a half-dozen pucks are flying across the able, all but one of which are virtual.

Sony has no plans to turn its virtual air hockey table into a commercial product at this time. The prototype was merely a demonstration of how AR can be used in new and novel ways. It also demonstrates how sensors and the right software can create truly immersive experiences.

Known as The A(i)R Hockey table, Sony’s prototype was also showcased at Sony Square NYC from April 26-May 27, 2018. The Sony Square NYC air hockey exhibit was free and open to the general public. Sony Square NYC is an interactive showroom that showcases Sony’s latest technologies.

“The A(i)R Hockey game is a great way to demonstrate some of Sony’s cutting edge innovations and technologies, while at the same time providing fun for the whole family,”

Sony said in a press release for the Sony Square NYC exhibit.

The table’s sensors are perhaps the most impressive feature. Tracking objects at 1,000 frames per second allows for low latency and a realistic AR experience. Players who tested the table said they had a hard time distinguishing between the real and virtual pucks. Developers say that is the ultimate goal with AR: to create such an immersive experience that users can’t tell the difference between fantasy and reality.

Some speculate that the technology will make Sony a leader in AR technology.

Melissa Thompson
Melissa Thompson writes about a wide range of topics, revealing interesting things we didn't know before. She is a freelance USA Today producer, and a Technorati contributor.