The PSP may be getting on in years, but that doesn't mean the hardware has been left in the dust. Sony has kept up with the newer crop of portables by exploring some of the same tech they use -- and occasionally even beating them to the punch.
On the PSP, these novelties are, somewhat surprisingly, aimed at the younger demographic. Fortunately, it is just that age group that they are sure to fascinate. And while older gamers may write it off as "gimmicky", their inner child is sure to marvel at new tech, too.
In this first part of a three-part article, the PSP tech for kids we'll be looking at is:
Augmented Reality (AR) technology
With AR technology, an object from the game world is seen through the camera, superimposed onto the real world. It can make it appear, for example, that a character from the game is actually on your kitchen table. The area around an AR object can also be transformed, with neat terrain-deformation effects, among others. So your table's surface might look like it's suddenly sprouting soft, green grass.
Nintendo made AR technology into a big selling point for their 3DS system, but did you know that the PSP had AR games first? Invizimals lets players use the PSP Go!Cam to hunt for monsters hidden under their beds, in their yards, or anywhere else they can point the lens, and bring them into the game. Your new pets can then appear anywhere you can put the AR card, so players can have their Invizimals duke it out in front of, say, their stuffed animals. The AR battles look at least as good as anything the 3DS has produced so far (minus the 3D effect, of course), and you can move around freely to watch the action from different angles. Warning: fans of Pokémon may suddenly find they have a new favorite after trying this one.
A sequel, Invizimals: Shadow Battle, came out in late 2010 to even better reviews than the first game. Right now, this is a Europe-only title, though some sources show a North American release date of October 25, 2011. Fortunately, because the PSP is a region-free system, those of us in North America could import this game now and play it on our domestic PSPs.
Invizimals is rated E10+. For more information on the game, check out its website, invizimals.com. (Note: Invizimals is not compatible with PSPgo systems.)
On the more educational side of things, the PSP application Second Sight uses the camera to recognize tags in printed media, and, from these, generates 3D image overlays. For example, if the camera captures the code for "Space Shuttle Discovery", it would generate a model of the space shuttle, right on the page. Second Sight is a European-developed application meant for teachers and educators, so if you're ever around a museum in the U.K., you may get to check it out. Let's hope that such technologies will one day catch on stateside.
Buyer Beware: The PSP version of Eyepet, which also uses AR technology, is nowhere near as good as the PS3 version. Major complaints include having to stand stock still while using the AR card -- which, by the way, you will be doing all the time -- and a lack of a "hands-on" feeling as you interact with your pet. Better to go with the PS3 version instead.