Air hockey just got so much better.

Image: karissa bell/mashable

In the future, all your air hockey games could be in augmented reality.

Now, thanks to Sony, we have an idea of just how cool that could be. The company was demoing a new augmented reality air hockey concept at SXSW, and it was impressively fun.

Officially called “A(i)R Hockey,” the concept combined Sony’s light projection tech and haptic sensors to create a next-level air hockey game. 

The game, which supports up to four players at once, starts out with a regular air hockey puck that players bat around into each other’s goals. Soon, virtual pucks are projected onto the table and added to the mix. The paddles are equipped with haptic sensors that vibrate each time you touch a puck.

You don’t get that satisfying *clack* of the puck rattling down into your opponent’s goal like you do with the real thing, but the real puck adds enough sound effects. And the haptic sensors give just enough feedback to make you feel like you’re actually hitting something when you strike one of the virtual pucks. 

More impressive is that Sony managed to pull this off with a low enough latency that there is no perceptible lag between when you hit the projected puck and how it moves. The virtual pucks behave just as you’d expect them to — bouncing around the table, just like a physical one.

This is all possible thank to Sony’s high-speed “vision sensor” that can track objects at up to 1,000 frames per second.

But most importantly, the addition of haptics and augmented reality actually makes your air hockey matches more fun.

Sadly, the idea is just a concept for now — one of many Sony showed off at its Wow Studio at SXSW. No word yet on whether there’s any hope of it making its way out of Sony’s labs. But we’ll be ready when it does.



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