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After revealing and open-sourcing its DIY $100 North Star augmented reality headset, Leap Motion has created a compelling reason to actually assemble one yourself — AR table tennis. A new demo video shows a person competing against a virtual opponent, using only one real paddle and a Ping-Pong table.

The demo evokes memories of the classic game Pong, which helped Atari create the entire video game industry. Just like Pong, the Leap Motion player takes control of a paddle, swatting at a virtual ball as an AI-controlled paddle awaits and returns shots. But here, the ball appears to be an actual 3D object, leaving a light trail as it moves through space, and the AI opponent is programmed to offer only humanly possible returns.

Watching the video above, it’s easy to forget that the ball and fluidly-moving virtual paddle aren’t real. Their motions and sounds so closely resemble actual objects as to be only slightly “augmented,” enabling a real person to compete against a very close to real — if disembodied — opponent.


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Another particularly compelling element of the demo is its first-person perspective on the action — it gives you a sense of what it actually feels like to look through North Star’s AR screens, which promise “best-in-class field-of-view, refresh rate, and resolution” superior to even $3,000 Microsoft HoloLens units. Prior North Star demos have focused largely on holographic computer and tool UIs, including increasingly fluid hand tracking, so this one stands out for its fun and exercise potential.

There are a couple of caveats to the table tennis demo: it appears to be using external cameras to track the player’s motion, and the real paddle is customized with tracking hardware so that it can be properly sensed in space. Ideally, an AR system like North Star would be able to incorporate all the necessary inside-out tracking to make games like this playable without extra gear. But as a tease as to what next-generation augmented reality gaming will look like, it’s still quite compelling.

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