Microsoft Hinting At IllumiRoom The Possible Next Step In Gaming – Austin Visuals 3D Animation Studio Reports
Microsoft is set to continue its dominance of the living room with the May 21 announcement of the next Xbox, continuing the circular naming tradition by calling it the 720. However, there is something even more interesting that Microsoft is only hinting at — their IllumiRoom research project.
Now, this is not completely new. The interactive projector was shown off before at the CES show in January. Although Microsoft still insists that the project remains in development, an extended preview of the device at the Computer Human Interaction conference in Paris this week shows us otherwise.
The IllumiRoom is said to be an add-on for the 720, much in the same way that the Kinect is an add-on for the 360. What’s different this time, though, is that the IllumiRoom offers a more immersive experience. Sure, motion controls are nice, and the PlayStation 4’s simplified chip architecture is neat, but only Microsoft is offering a full-blown new way of seeing and playing our games. That may well herald yet another round of Microsoft dominance in home consoles.
What the IllumiRoom projector does is scan your playing area, mapping the room and then augmenting the gamer’s experience. The device allows game graphics and data to be seen outside the confines of the television set; effects such as lighting can be added; tertiary information about the game can be provided, or any combination thereof.
In short, this can easily be considered a step towards a Star Trek-style holodeck. And who wouldn’t want one of those in their living room?
It might be gimmicky, but it’s also absolutely fascinating. Although there have been many attempts to expand gaming beyond the screen, from Sony’s EyeToy to Nintendo’s 3DS, to Microsoft’s own Kinect — there’s something different about this approach. That’s the whole point, say Microsoft technical people.
“A lot of previous research has said, ‘Let’s take a virtual thing and put it in your physical environment,'” Microsoft Research intern Brett Jones told PC World. “What we wanted to do is take a physical environment and make it virtual.”
There are some YouTube videos of the demo. They show this product can show something simple, such as passing streetlights in a racing game. But they can also be as complex as animating flying projectiles and adding motion blurs. Of course, at this point none of the tricks seem all that necessary to control games; there are no IllumiRoom-specific titles. However, the impression of being surrounded by the gameworld is utterly captivating, so long as you don’t mind playing in a darkened room. As a bonus, it does work in a lit room as well, but where’s the fun in that?
Alas, the IllumiRoom won’t be part of the 720 launch. There will be a showing pf the project, though, at SIGGRAPH 2013 in Anaheim, CA (July). By then we should know if we will be impressed by the eye candy the IllumiRoom is sure to provide, or if we should focus on the meat and potatoes of the 720 itself.
At any rate, it’s apparent that Microsoft researchers are exploring what’s possible with next-gen home consoles, and are trying very hard to find new ways for humans and machines to interact. That seems to be something that Nintendo and Sony have forgotten to do.
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