At the convergence of Kinect and the power of projection lies Microsoft’s latest weapon in the war for the living room: IllumiRoom.
Unveiled this January at CES 2013, garnering reactions from the skeptical to the bespectacled, the still-prototype IllumiRoom harnesses Kinect‘s motion-sensing capabilities as it projects dynamic, real-time images across a wide, living-room-wall sized field of vision (all the while communicating with the Xbox itself, of course). Coinciding with a presentation at CHI (Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems) 2013, Microsoft has released the 5-minute demo above elucidating IllumiRoom’s augmentative talents.
Resting on a user’s coffee table as what Microsoft hopes will be its centerpiece, IllumiRoom perceives both in-game action and the accoutrements of its abode. Kinect maps out the walls, the television, the surrounding furniture shelves or bookcases; all the while the projector — not much larger than a fairly thick novel — overlays textures, or “illusions,” corresponding to the action on screen.
This is where the projector becomes a master manipulator. Naturally, IllumiRoom’s most basic function is what Microsoft calls “Focus + Context Full” — expanding the out-of-view game world (the context) over the rest of the wall. But the options beyond that seem infinitely complex. IllumiRoom can darken out the context, accentuating the light around its edges; limit the context elements, such as to incoming bullets or nearby explosions; or even keep light away from certain objects in a room, as if the action were unfolding behind your cabinet or houseplant.
IllumiRoom even does mood lighting; the entire atmosphere of a room can tweaked and tuned with black-and-white, saturation, and edging settings in accordance with a game’s vibe. Such is the case when we see snowflakes piling up on shelves; shadows spinning around as a car drives beneath streetlights; or a ball bouncing off the TV screen and continuing its journey on the floor.
Not surprisingly, Microsoft has suggested that IllumiRoom is being tested for its next-generation Xbox. Buried in an in informational document released ahead of its CHI presentation, the company claims that the device would “be connected wireless to a next-generation gaming console as a secondary display.” If that’s the case — although, unlike Kinect 2, IllumiRoom likely wouldn’t ship standard with every console — imagine playing Battlefield 4 as bullets whiz around the room or an explosion rocks a nearby family portrait. It’s not just surround sound or surround vision — it’s surround action.
That being said: we’d still approach IllumiRoom with a healthy dose of skepticism for now. Aside from its current prototype status, the trailer is, ultimately, a carefully orchestrated, pre-packaged tech demo assembled by Microsoft. While it makes a convincing argument that snowfall, expanding scenery and lazer show-like light distortions are nothing but gimmick-free tableaus of gaming goodness, it’s hard to know just how the mind would perceive the same experience in person — let alone again and again and with a different developer’s interpretation of terms like “radial wobble.”
Ranters, what do you think of the abilities on display in the IllumiRoom demo? Would you like to see Microsoft reveal more about the device alongside its next-gen Xbox unveiling on May 21?
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