A Giant 'Pong' Arena Was Created Using LiDAR Tech
Pong is one of the enduring icons of video games. One of the original classic two-player computer gaming experiences, the simple tennis simulator has been played by generations of gamers, despite the fact that (let's face it) the game isn't all that engaging compared with innovations that have come since.
That said, its simplicity makes it easy to adapt to a wide variety of new settings and gameplay styles. A team in Montreal named Moment Factory found an impressive way to remix the classic Pong experience for four players simultaneously, while also forcing everyone involved to get some exercise.
Now, instead of being confined to a simply black and white screen, the game can be played in a physical space, as players chase a virtual ball across the floor in a trippy experience that's filled with multicolor surprises. See it below - just as a warning, this video contains strobe flashing lights which may not be suitable for those who suffer from epilepsy:
The technology at play here involves LiDAR, the spacial awareness sensor system that keeps self-driving cars from bumping into things. The game senses where each player moves to, and reacts by moving their paddles appropriately.
If you've been to a trendy shopping mall at any point in the past few years, you've probably already seen a very basic version of this kind of game, but the technology used by Moment Factory is a little more advanced than this, as is evidenced by the fact that the game is actually playable with four people on the course at once.
This is more than just jabbing at a projection and hoping that the ball will go vaguely in the right direction, as the level of accuracy on display is such that earlier motion controls are put to shame.
From a design perspective, the genius twist on the formula here involves forcing two players to cooperate in order to move their paddle - turning the game into a doubles sport means that players need to communicate with each other in order to succeed. This elevates the game from simply being a battle of wits between two players, as everyone involved needs to not only accurately judge their position relative to the virtual ball's path, but also communicate with their partner in order to be in the right place at the right time.
Things are taken a step further with a lot of the additional gameplay gimmicks that fans of titles like Breakout will recognize - multiple balls, a shrinking or growing ball, and speed boosts that make the game more difficult to predict.
These are accompanied with flashing visuals that look like B-roll for Doctor Strange, which both make the game more interesting to watch, and provide the game with an extra level of challenge as players try to keep track of what's going on in front of them.
Thus far, motion control video games have proven to be little more than a novelty, so this technology is probably not going to replace an actual controller any time soon. Even for more casual gamers, the reaction to Microsoft's Kinect suggests that this LiDAR system won't be making it to home consoles in the near future.
This use of the technology, though, does hint at the potential uses of LiDAR in unusual settings that haven't yet been considered. It turns out that motion sensing can be useful for more than just making sure that robots don't fall down when trying to cross an uneven floor.