Rock'em Sock'em Robots is a two-player boxing game that was first manufactured by the Marx toy company in 1964. It features two robots that fight each other, using simple mechanical manipulation to allow the players to control their robot. The game is won when one of the opponents loses their head - the robot that is, not the player!
A number of different versions have been produced since then, and the game has sold in the hundreds of thousands, becoming something of a minor pop-culture phenomenon.
In 2000, a remake of the classic version was developed by Mattel, at approximately half the size of the original model. You can still buy this (at the time of writing) from Mattel's ecommerce shop.
Now Mattel are enabling a whole new generation to experience the Rock'em Sock'em Robots game, but this time via Augmented Reality on an Android SmartPhone!
Augmented Reality implementations on SmartPhones have actually been around for a while, but have tended to be somewhat basic graphics-wise, using floating tags to indicate points of interest. There have been examples using 3D graphics, but the limited processing power and display capabilities of mobile devices has made for a less than ideal experience... until now that is.
Mattel's AR Rock'em Sock'em Robots game features graphics that are more akin to what you would expect from a desktop Augmented Reality experience, and it enables a high degree of user interaction by using two phones to control the action - one for each player.
The game is the first incarnation of a sophisticated AR development system by chipset manufacturers Qualcomm, running on an Android 2.1 handset with a Snapdragon processor. This game has essentially been created to demonstrate the potential of this system, however it is not available yet commercially, sadly.
We will however start to see more engaging and graphically rich mobile Augmented Reality experiences like this start to appear over the coming months, as SmartPhone hardware and software continues to improve - so watch this space!