Atari Table Pong cleverly re-creates the classic video game using physics

The nostalgia wave was strong at CES 2018, the big tech trade show in Las Vegas this week. I got a taste of it when I saw Atari Table Pong, a mechanical and digital table game in which you spin foam paddles to play.

It’s sort of like an air hockey table, with the action taking place under a glass enclosure. You spin a mechanical dial to move your paddle. A foam ball bounces back and forth between the paddles, which repel the ball through the clever use of magnets. It has retro sounds, and the back border lights up when someone scores.

The project started as Kickstarter campaign last spring. It raised $335,422 from 322 backers. Gerardo Orioli and Daniel Perdomo came up with the idea in 2014 as a homage to the retro days of games. Perdomo’s Uruguay-based Calinfer created the table, which is both physical and digital. Unis Technology is manufacturing the table.

It uses a combination of magnets, electric motors, mechanical system of rails and poles, leads and electronics. The motors drive the magnets under the play-field with a mechanical device on rails and pulleys. On the surface, the short bars and square simulate the two-dimensional interface of the original game.

You can cover the controls and it becomes more like an ordinary coffee table. If you know Pong, you can pretty much get a handle on the controls. You can’t spin the dial as fast as you can move a digital paddle in a video game version of Pong. So you have to get your hand movements tuned with how fast the ball moves and how quickly the paddle can intercept it. The table can also play streaming music via Bluetooth.

Shipments start in the first quarter. Retail prices should be about $2,800.

Atari licensed Pong to CalinFer for the table, and Calinfer has plans for other games in the future, said Walter Nocara at Calinfer.

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