Virtual games in a real sports club

November 18th, 2011 by Sandra Barron

Hey, Tron fans. The future you’ve been dreaming of is here, located in a sports club inside a shopping mall in Tokyo. Or one step closer, anyway. With the new e-Sports Ground, players can run around a yoga studio kicking balls and breaking blocks made of light projected on the floor. The technology behind it is a system similar to Microsoft’s Kinect:  Sensors hanging from the corners of the the ceiling read and react to players’ motions and instantly change the projected images accordingly. Players don’t need to hold or wear any special equipment.

Get your virtual game on

As described by Nikkei Trendy, there are sports games, where where players kick virtual balls to each other and try to score, like one-on-one soccer or full-body air hockey. Another option is like stepping into the kind of video game you might have played … if you were a kid in the early ’80s. You become the paddle in a version of Breakout, using your  feet or hands to bounce a ball into a layer of bricks to destroy them. In Spacerunner, you outrun moving blobs of light. For a more cerebral experience, a game that translates roughly to “Spreadsheet Walk” challenges you to perform calculations on numbers on the ground by walking on them in the right order. We don’t remember seeing that in Tron.

The space opened last Friday at sports club Renaissance in Kitasuna, Koto-ku. Playing is free for sports club members. The game schedule is posted on the gym’s homepage. A spokesperson at the gym was quoted in Nikkei Trendy as saying that they have plans to add the system to one more branch early next year and hope to install it in others as they are renovated.

The maker of the e-Sports Ground is Eureka Computer. The system is also currently on display at the Kobe Biennale. Versions of the game system have been appearing at new media and digital art exhibits in Japan over the last two years, including at 3331 Arts Chiyoda and at the Japan Media Arts Festival in 2010.

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