Google is hogging the tech limelight this week thanks to the flashy new virtual reality and wearable technology shown off at the I/O developers conference, but Microsoft has an ambitious experimental entertainment system you should also be paying attention to: Project IllumiRoom.
The system, which has been in the works for several years now, is built entirely from affordable, readily available electronic components, including a video projector and a Microsoft Kinect. It works by using the Kinect to scan your living room to locate your TV set and furniture, then uses the projector to extend whatever visual media is playing on your TV set to the entire room around you. Among the many eye-catching things Microsoft imagines you’ll do with such a system: cower from virtual grenades rolling out of your TV set and onto the floor of your living room.
Microsoft has previously shown off several impressive demos of IllumiRoom being used to play movies, as well as deeply immersive first-person shooter video games, but the latest video demo — released to coincide with a new paper on the system published in the June edition of Communications of the Association for Computer Machinery (ACM) — shows even more impressive progress. IllumiRoom can not only drop virtual objects onto the ground in front of you, but visually distort the entire appearance of the room to make it appear as though the world is rippling from the force of your video game gunshots.
Although the project remains in the hands of researchers for now, it’s not too difficult to imagine this making its way to the next Xbox. And put alongside Microsoft’s HoloLens headset, which is due to ship later this year, the future of home entertainment looks brighter and more addictive than ever.