While Sony's NGP presentation at GDC merely rehashed a lot of information already known about the device, they did show off at least one new feature -- the NGP's take on augmented reality. Augmented reality is certainly one of the new hot features developers and console makers are looking to incorporate into games and systems. From previous games like EyePet to simple iOS apps, augmented reality looks to bring aspects of games and game worlds into the real world.
The 3DS looks to incorporate augmented reality by having the system scan special augmented reality cards, or by putting the player's face on an object in the world. The NGP, on the other hand, takes the concept a bit further by using what was described as "natural marker technology" to use ordinary items as anchors for the in-screen virtual world. Tsutomu Horikawa, director of SCEI Software Solution Developement Dept., showed off the technology in realtime.
First, he pointed the NGP's rear-facing camera at a Japanese version of the box art for the game Ape Escape. After reading the art, an Ape-Escape ape, helmet and all, popped up on top of the box. The result looked similar to what has been seen of the augmented reality demoed on the 3DS, except the NGP did not appear to require a special card for the AR to work. The next demonstration, however, proved even more impressive.
After moving the device around in the real world, changing angles and perspectives, showing how the Ape-Escape ape scaled and moved accordingly, Horikawa walked off the stage into the audience and pointed the NGP's rear-facing camera towards a poster of a dinosaur that looked very similar to the dinosaur Sony used to demonstrate the original PlayStation's power. After reading the poster, a huge t-rex appeared in the world as viewed through the NGP's screen, towering over the audience. As he moved the device around, its gyroscopes and accelerometers did the work to correctly display the dinosaur. It appeared as if the device's screen was a small window used to peer into another world where the dinosaur actually stood among those in attendance.
While no true games or actual gameplay mechanics were shown using the NGP's augmented reality technology, the tech itself looked impressive and should give developers a lot of tools to play with when incorporating augmented reality into their games, or when making entirely augmented reality play experiences.
What are your thoughts on augmented reality? Is this a technology you are excited about? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.