One of the neater aspects of portable gaming to come about in recent years is the advent of augmented reality experiences. We're seeing them crop up all over the place now, as every handheld device with a screen, a camera and a little processing power seems capable of it in some form or other.
Enter the PlayStation Vita and its AR cards. In a tiny room at the back of Sony's booth, we were given a chance to check out how they are approaching these kinds of game experiences with a simple game called Table Soccer. With six cards on the table, we were able to see how the Vita offers some dynamic possibilities, as positioning them allowed us to expand the size of the play area, add some stands (complete with crowd) and a scoreboard.
Forgetting for the moment that there's an actual purpose for them, Sony's AR cards themselves are kind of impressive in their own way. Slightly larger than a standard playing card and square, they have a plastic coating on them that gives them a bit of thickness while still remaining flexible. These cards are likely capable of taking a fair beating.
As for the games, they're still pretty basic at this point, more compelling technically than in terms of gameplay. The aforementioned Table Soccer is... well, it's a simple soccer game for two players. Your excitement level for that sort of thing may be (probably is) a lot higher than mine. On the other hand, Fireworks is something of a spiritual successor to Fantavision where you tap fireworks to make them explode over a backdrop of whatever you have your Vita pointed towards at the moment, and that's pretty fun. A third title, named Cliff Diver will also be available, though we were forcibly removed from the meeting room before we had a chance to see it.
It's a gimmick, but a visually impressive one and as a pack-in for the US launch of the console, it's a neat little extra.