Darting through the halls and crowds at CES, I ran into Visual Sports Arena who have a different kind of controller… foam balls. You throw these at your TV and a giant net with sensors tracks and, perhaps, more importantly catches the balls before they smash your screen. That’s the gist of the Arena system.
Visual Sports Arena demoed a few games titles the show. Some of them were virtual sports games like basketball, which had players throw a foam basketball at a screen. The angle of the hoop shifted during the basketball game so players had to change the angle of their shot. After the ball touches the net there’s a bit of lag before you see if the ball goes through the net or bounces off the rim.
While most of the games were simulations (soccer, baseball, and bocci), one of the more interesting demos was this town destruction game. Players threw a baseball at the screen, which turned into giant rock. The more things you destroy, the more points you get.
Zombie Dodgeball was neat, but it’s not really "dodgeball". It’s more like House of the Dead with a foam football. Zombies stagger their way towards the screen and you have to hit them by tossing the football. Your shot arcs downwards so you actually have to aim above the zombie you want to hit.
You can’t see it in this video, but power up boxes show up in Zombie Dodgeball too. Hit one of these to turn your ball into a fireball that can take out a zombie with a single hit. Some zombies take more than one bonk on the head to defeat, which makes the power up quite useful. I tried to "trick" the game by throwing a couple of balls at the same time. That plan didn’t work so well since it only registered one of them. One of the staff members explained, the net can process actual sports equipment like basketballs too, but didn’t recommend using those since the net may not catch them.
The Arena system comes with the net, two foam balls, and seven games. You also need a PC (sold separately, of course) to connect everything. One Arena kit costs north of $3,000, so this technology probably won’t be in the average home anytime soon. Arcades or bowling allies, which happen to be a home for a few DJ Max Technika machines in North America, perhaps?