ARBasketball Hands-On Preview

The term “augmented reality” describes computer-generated content placed on top of a real-life image. For instance, the yellow first down line you see on the football field when you’re watching a game on TV? That’s augmented reality. TIE fighters attacking New York City? That’s augmented reality. An imaginary but usable basketball hoop popping up out of your desk? That’s coming soon, in a game called ARBasketball. (And, yes, the AR stands for augmented reality.)

To play the game, you need a 3GS or a fourth-generation iPhone or iPod Touch. You also need access to a printer, to print out a PDF of the semacode-like image available here. You also need somewhere flat to place the print-out, because it’s out of the image on the paper that the computer-generated basketball hoop will sprout.

When you start to play the game, the screen shows whatever’s in the view of your iDevice’s camera. (For best results, angle it away from your crotch). If you aim the camera at the print-out, you’ll see the computer-generated hoop and basketball as well. The actual game is a lot like Skee-Ball, NBA Hotshot, or those free throw basketball games you’ll find in arcades. It boils down to flicking the basketball toward the hoop.

ARBasketball comes with three different modes: Training, Classic, and Action. Training lets you toss balls from anywhere for five minutes. Classic has no time limit, but it gives you six different places to shoot from and makes you alternate. This means you have to actually move around the print-out, but you don’t have to go far. Action Mode lets you throw the ball from each of the six positions for 20 seconds.

That’s it. It’s a simple game, but the augmented reality gimmick is used to interesting effect. There aren’t any online leaderboards or computer opponents, so if you want to play competitively you’ll need a real-life buddy to compare scores with. Also, if you get too far away from the print-out, or if the lighting in your room isn’t very good, the ball and hoop will start to flicker.

ARBasketball has been submitted to Apple, so look for it in the next couple of days.