Interactive chess as seen in Star Wars is only months away according to Philips with the launch of a fully integrated tabletop gaming platform called "Entertaible" at this year's IFA in Berlin.

The table, which was first announced at CES in Las Vegas in January is according to the company a "multi-purpose platform [that] enables a new class of gaming that combines the excitement of electronic games with the fun and social interaction of board games".

Since the presentation of a functional prototype in January at CES, Philips Entertaible has developed the concept into a robust and integrated gaming platform, operating stand-alone and ready for market testing.

The Entertaible allows the players to sit around it and play a new class of electronic game. A game class that combines the features of computer gaming - such as dynamic playing fields and gaming levels, with the social interaction and tangible playing pieces - such as pawns and dies - of traditional board games.

The Entertaible comprises 30-inch LCD, sophisticated touch screen-based multi-object position detection, and all supporting control electronics.

While the concept of a multi-user digital table is not new, previous solutions have utilised complex arrangements of overhead cameras and dimmed lighting that detract from the user experience. The Philips Entertaible, however, is based on a series of infrared LEDs and photodiodes discretely mounted around the perimeter of a single touch screen. It requires no special lighting conditions or other equipment and is entirely "hand" operated by touch alone. Yet Entertaible can simultaneously detect dozens of objects (including fingers).

“One of the most obvious and immediate applications of this technology will be the board game market and the opportunity to reinvigorate established board game classics”, comments Gerard Hollemans of Philips Research in Eindhoven, the Netherlands, who leads the research team that developed Entertaible. “However, in the longer term, Entertaible could be used to invent brand new games offering unprecedented levels of user interaction - games that would never become predictable or ever quite 'feel' the same twice, however often you played them.”

Philips Entertaible is initially targeting social gaming away from home in locations such as pubs, bars, hotels or restaurants and plans pilot testing at several partner locations in Q4 2006.