VIDEO: Power-Ups, Virtual Balls, And Quantum Engines: Welcome To The Future Of Sports

via Fast Company

Basketball, soccer, baseball–these are all fine sports. But wouldn’t they be even more fun if they could be released from the boring, been-there-done-that laws of physics?

This is what human-computer interaction researchers in Germany were wondering when they created the idea of the “imaginary reality game”–a concept for a hybrid analog-digital game that allows people to play sports as usual, but with an invisible ball and the addition of “power-ups,” low-gravity scenarios, and other crazy schemes dreamed up by developers.

“Unfortunately, physical games are limited by the constraints of the real world, restricting their game mechanics to what is physically possible,” the researchers state, matter-of-factly, in a paper that will be presented at a major conference on human-computer interfaces in the UK on Friday.

Their prototype version of a new reality, which they show-off in the simulation above, is called “Quantum Basketball.” Real players face off against each other, wearing accelerometer sensors on their hands, belts, and markers on their heads so they can be tracked by a camera. A “quantum engine” that the team developed probabilistically computes all possible trajectories for the imaginary ball the players are passing and shooting, and a game engine decides the outcome according to a set of given rules along with randomness (i.e. whether a ball goes out of bounds or is caught). Finally, the player–who can’t see the ball–hears occasional sound feedback, such as the sound of a swoosh, a catch, an interception, and an announcer’s voice, so they can figure out where the ball is and how to respond. There is an element of uncertainty compared to regular basketball, but that’s part of the fun.

Patrick Baudisch, the lead author on the paper who is with the Hasso Plattner Institute in Germany (and formerly of Microsoft Research and Xerox PARC), thinks devices people already have in their living room could make such games possible, such as the new generation Microsoft Kinect camera, which is being released with the Xbox One in a few weeks. The camera will be equipped to track multiple people.

“We think of imaginary reality gaming as the next thing for the living room (the large living room…maybe 2 on 2 on basket :)),” he wrote in an email from the conference at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland.

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