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Become Harry Potter – right in your living room

An image from the video game “Book of Spells”

Who among the world's millions of Harry Potter fans hasn't wished they could cast a Reparo spell to fix a broken glass or simply waggle a wand to make someone forget a mistake?

Sony's Book of Spells for PlayStation Move, announced at the Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles last week, may not give people the power to conjure real magic, but it does the next best thing: It uses augmented reality to make it look like they are.

Featuring new material written by author J.K. Rowling, it's an interactive book that places its reader in the cloak of a Hogwarts student studying the origins of the wizarding world's most popular and powerful incantations before learning how to cast them.

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Here's how it works: Your kids (and, let's face it, probably you, too) sit on the floor flipping through Sony's new Wonderbook, a storybook-sized paper and cardboard tome the pages of which are filled with blocky "AR tags." When viewed on your TV through the lens of the PlayStation Move camera, these geometric codes magically transform into moving illustrations and interactive text. Imagine dragons that fly off the page, paper doors that swing open to reveal dark passages leading to other dimensions, and glowing words that players can pull from the book and make hover in midair.

The PlayStation Move controller – cleverly altered to look like a wand on your TV – is used to cast spells by drawing patterns in the air. Making a sweeping Z-shape, for example, is all it takes to cast Incendio and send a glowing fireball flying through your living room. A series of challenges and puzzles help kids master the book's many charms, with tests coming at the end of each chapter and Hogwarts House Points awarded for exceptional performance.

Augmented-reality technology, now employed everywhere from retail stores to phone apps, is quickly becoming ubiquitous, but AR-powered games for systems like PlayStation 3 and Nintendo 3DS have yet to move much beyond simple curiosities.

Now backed by one of the most powerful authors and literary franchises in the world, this hybrid of the real and virtual may finally move into the mainstream in a big way when Book of Spells launches this fall, and pave the way for more interactive companion pieces to contemporary works of popular fiction.

Anyone up for living-room archery lessons with Katniss?

Special to The Globe and Mail

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About the Author
Game and Gadget Reporter

Chad Sapieha has been writing about video games and consumer gadgets for the Globe and Mail since 2003. His work has been published in magazines, newspapers, and Web sites across North America, and he has appeared as an expert on television and radio newscasts. More


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