Microsoft on Wednesday demonstrated a new interactive visual effects system called IllumiRoom, which is capable of projecting elements of a videogame or video — falling snow, incoming fire, even an entire city block — outside of a TV set and around the expanse of a user’s room, while still allowing the user to play the game.
“Imagine a space like your kitchen or a classroom achieving that same level of interactivity as your phone,” wrote Microsoft editor Steve Clayton in a company blog post on the technology. “This will happen through a combination of embedded devices, sensors like Kinect for Windows, and new, augmented reality displays. Our research demo only covers educational and entertainment scenarios but the possibilities are endless.”
Of course, seeing IllumiRoom in action is more evocative than simply describing it. That’s why Microsoft showed off a brief video demo during its portion of partner company Samsung’s keynote at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas on Wednesday.
Microsoft also published a video of IllumiRoom to YouTube. Watch it below:
Microsoft’s current iteration of IllumiRoom may only be a prototype, but the company is clearly serious about pursuing it, launching a separate website for IllumiRoom which explains how the system works in slightly more detail. IllumiRoom uses the Kinect for Windows device’s camera to map the “geometry of the room” and “adapt the projected visuals in real-time without any need to custom pre-process the graphics.”
As the IllumiRoom website explains: “Our system can change the appearance of the room, induce apparent motion, extend the field of view, and enable entirely new game experiences.”
Though the immediate applications are videogame focused, its worth pointing out that so too was Microsoft’s Kinect motion capture sensor for the XBox, which has since gone on to sell an estimated 20 million units over the course of its availability. Microsoft adapted the Kinect specifically for Windows PCs in early 2012, an acknowledgment of the burgeoning hacker community that had sprung up around the original Kinect, as well as its growing potential in other use cases, from medicine to retail to 3D scanning.
IllumiRoom was designed by Microsoft researchers Brett Jones, Hrvoje Benko, Eyal Ofek and Andy Wilson, who will present more about their work at the CHI 2013 conference in Paris, which takes place April 27 through May 3.