PS Vita AR Cards?

August 28th, 2011 -

Little is really known about the Vita’s Augmented Reality capabilities or features other than a few trailers of upcoming games and some “tech demonstrations” about Sony’s development into this technology. One bullet point that we know is that the Vita (formerly NGP) will not require AR cards to measure its distance or understand its bearings in the real world versus its super imposed objects. Or, so various sources on the internet have been told. This concept will blow the mind of any 3DS owner after they have used the AR card to render Nintendo’s augmented reality games that come packed in with each system sold. When you use an AR card, it gives the system a point of reference to render the super imposed object and orientate it so that it appears to be real, thus Augmenting Reality. Without this card or point of reference, the illusion would be lost. Or would it? Maybe Nintendo’s AR technology is just a bit archaic …


In the video above you see how it’s possible to use just about any object as the point of reference or “AR Card” for the software to render its object correctly in what appears to be the real world. Once the software has its understanding of where the “card” is, it no longer needs to keep a line of sight with the object, thus creating a far greater suspended disbelief that what you are seeing is “Augmented”. So, if a Sony Ericsson phone can handle this technology, one could safely assume that Sony’s “hand held PS3″ could handle running the software to produce card less augmented reality. However, things do get a bit complicated.

Hmmm, well then. That certainly looks like an AR card. It says “PS Vita” on it. And it can be found in the latest Gamescom 2011 trailer for “Reality Fighters.” That throws all logic and previous discussions out the window… but wait, maybe not. Let’s think about this for a moment. The PS Vita may in fact use AR technology that does not require a “card,” but I never said it doesn’t require a point of reference at all. In previous examples, the system is replacing what it would use a dedicated AR card for with other objects placed in the scenery. However, in this scenario they are playing on a table with no other objects and a white background. So how is this possible? To better understand what is happening here, we need to take a look at a few other AR devices that you may already have in your home.

These devices that you are probably more familiar with use a similar technology to the Vita. The Playstation Move uses the glowing ball on the end of the controller the same way that the 3DS uses the AR card. If the camera’s line of sight with the Move’s orb is blocked, the illusion is lost. Microsoft’s Kinect camera, however, does not require you to use an object as a point of reference, resulting in a less accurate tracking, but greater belief that what your are seeing is really happening. The proposed technology that the Vita is using for AR would be somewhat of a mix between the two of these. There are some purposes that the Kinect cannot be used for, due to its lack of accurate hardware tracking, as well as there are some experiences that the Move cannot create. Based on what we know of Sony’s tech demonstration and games previously shown, the Vita can presumably reproduce both types of AR.

Here is the ringer: you are more than likely waiting for my conclusion on this subject to answer just about everything you want to know about the Vita’s AR capabilities, but as I stated at the very beginning of this post… The Vita’s AR technology is still very “hush hush.” So the only thing I can offer you is an educated theory on the matter; a hypothesis, and nothing more. Logic would tell us that on a table like the one pictured above, the system has no way of distinguishing the angle of the surface since there is little to no color difference or referencing objects. In this particular scenario it makes sense that the system would need an AR card, but the big question here is this: Is this footage from an early build of the game, leaked into the trailer? Or will your shiny new PS Vita come shipped with an AR card similar to that of its direct competitor, the 3DS? Hopefully these questions and more will be answered at the Tokyo Games Show coming in September. Until then, bust out your 3DS and start thinking of ways to eliminate that card from the equation.

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