Last year, Microsoft demonstrated its IllumiRoom research at the Consumer Electronics Show as part of its showcase of next-generation Xbox technology work. The demo was a video of a projection system linked to the Xbox that extended games from the television set to nearby walls. At CES this year, Microsoft will showcase the next step in that technology, which they’re calling IllumiRoom 2.0: RoomAlive.
It builds on what the original last year did, but adds the entire room rather than merely extended views off the TV or on a wall. The proof-of-concept shows that it’s possible to use the Kinect system to view and utilize all usable surfaces of a room to extend game play beyond just one wall. The obvious references to Star Trek’s Holodeck will commence as the geek press talks about this.
The idea is to create an augmented reality that is interactive within an entire room. Imagine murder mysteries, for example, in which objects and items in the room around you are used in real-time as part of the game’s play. Alternatively, imagine you’re in a room in which objects are projected into place and you can grab, kick, hit, knock over, or utilize them in-game. Or both.
The RoomAlive idea is still in its early childhood phases, but is growing up fast, says Microsoft. Currently, costs and hardware/software limits are keeping it from being all that it could be, but that’s improving quickly. MS has not given a time frame for a public release, but it appears that the proof of concept is within just a handful of years of being a commercial product.
So yes, a sort of living room Holodeck might soon be possible. Engage!