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ePawn Arena: the 26-inch, $400 tabletop gaming screen with interactive game pieces (hands-on)

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ePawn's seeking to shake up the tabletop gaming space with its $400, 26-inch Arena screen, which uses Bluetooth to connect to your mobile device and NFC to connect to real-life game pieces.

Gallery Photo: ePawn Arena hands-on pictures
Gallery Photo: ePawn Arena hands-on pictures

ePawn's seeking to shake up the tabletop gaming space, and we have to say, we're almost convinced it can: the startup's 26-inch Arena screen, which lies flat on a surface, sounds like the perfect tool for an aspiring Dungeon Master. The display uses a custom magnetic system to track the position, rotation and identity of physical game pieces in real time, and it's pretty fast: quick enough to play a casual game of air hockey, let alone track a few miniatures. More importantly, the software is platform agnostic, and doesn't reside on the screen itself. Your smartphone is the computer, and it connects to the ePawn Arena over Bluetooth.

The idea is that you'll buy the screen and a variety of pieces from ePawn, then build software yourself for your mobile device of choice, though the company's co-founders told us that you won't necessarily need to program. An RPG development kit is also under consideration. You also might not need friends to crowd around a physical table, as ePawn says it can sync a pair of Arena screens over the internet to track your opponent's moves remotely. The screen will cost $400, and it's slated to go on sale later this year. That's not cheap, but not bad considering it also doubles as a regular PC monitor. Check out some multimedia below to get an idea of how it works.