First there was HD. Then there was 4K. Now, Microsoft Research is trying something new with a projection system called IllumiRoom that will make it seem like your entire living room is a holodeck from Star Trek.
IllumiRoom is basically a combination projector and Kinect for Windows system that shows a wider version of your video gaming environment onto the walls surrounding your HDTV. The system is designed to sit on living room coffee tables, and could allow for a more immersive gaming experience.
Microsoft showed off a proof-of-concept of the room projection system at CES back in January, but this week during the CHI 2013 conference, Microsoft Research released new demo videos and a paper on exactly how the system works.
The IllumiRoom uses a Kinect sensor to scan the area surrounding your HDTV for color and geometry. From there, the sensor takes that data into account to create a seamless projection video that extends the video game environment to the entire periphery of your vision--effectively making your screen look way bigger than it is.
In addition, the IllumiRoom can use various visual tricks to make a gaming experience more immersive. For example, if you're racing on a snowy track, the IllumiRoom will project falling snow on your walls as it accumulates near the ground. Enemy gunfire in a first person shooter might look way cooler as it passes beyond the edge of your screen and continues on through your living room. Meanwhile, glowing collectables might be marked as a glowing dot elsewhere in your living room, making them easier to find.
It's an interesting spin on the way the Xbox 360 used the Kinect to pull you into your gaming experiences by turning you into the controller, except it goes a step further and effectively puts you in the game itself. And it isn't hard to imagine ways to use this technology outside of gaming. Immersive 360-degree photo panoramas, anyone?
IllumiRoom seems to work in concept, but we don't really know if this technology will make its way into the next-generation Xbox, or if it's something that's still a few years off. Stay tuned for more updates as we make our way towards May 21 when the next-gen Xbox is officially unveiled. And if you want to see more from the CHI Conference, be sure to watch Nick Barber's video roundup.