Microsoft Showcases 'RoomAlive,' A Kinect-Powered Augmented Reality

Microsoft created a lot of buzz at CES last year when they demonstrated the IllumiRoom research project. Using a Kinect and a projector, IllumiRoom expanded the gaming screen outside of the TV and onto nearby walls.

This week, Microsoft released a new proof-of-concept video about RoomAlive, which seeks to build on the concept of Illumiroom. Instead of just projecting the gaming space onto one wall, RoomAlive makes an entire room part of the gaming experience. Check out the video above to see it in action. This is accomplished by using the depth cameras in six Kinect units and connecting each to its own projector. This allows the system to create a 3D map of any room and detect vertical and horizontal surfaces, as well as the floor of the room.

Microsoft is currently showcasing four experiences of the system. In the first demo, "Setting the Stage," RoomAlive transforms the room into several different environments, including a holodeck, an indoor factory, and a river. In "Whack-A-Mole," players compete for points by touching or shooting a virtual creature as he pops up around the room.

Microsoft Showcases RoomAlive Augmented Reality Prototype

"Robot Attack" seems like the most familiar gaming experience, as the player uses a regular controller to maneuver a character around the room, even running up walls, to avoid killer robots. Lastly, "Traps" is an Indiana Jones-style adventure, where players have to avoid darts shooting out of the walls. The walls turn red to signify when the player has been hit.

These are all casual experiences which highlight the functionality of the system, but it will be interesting to see if the idea can be adapted to more complicated games. In the reveal of IllumiRoom, the concept was positioned more as a peripheral to traditional games. RoomAlive, on the other hand, looks as if it will need games specifically designed for its system.

While the concept looks intriguing, the high cost of multiple projects and Kinect units will mean that it will be a long time before RoomAlive becomes commercially viable. Microsoft is instead preparing for a future when such technology is more accessible.

So what do you think? Are you looking forward to a time when augmented reality is as commonplace as traditional gaming? Let us know in the comments.

Source: Microsoft Research

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