Forget about the next generation of gesture controls…it looks like Microsoft’s next Xbox may include technology that turns your entire living room into a video screen. When the original Kinect released, people did all sorts of crazy stunts with it, including restructuring the hardware and turning it into a sort of 3D projector. Microsoft’s Research department apparently had a similar idea, and their idea may be incorporated into the next Xbox (“Xbox 720″) and/or into the next version of the Kinect Hardware (“Kinect 2.0″).
As first reported at ExtremeTech, Microsoft Research has officially unveiled a new projector-like technology that they’re calling IllumiRoom. Basically a spherical projector capable of transmitting an image around and entire room, IllumiRoom could hold fantastic implications for the next Xbox and/or the next Kinect, both of which are widely speculated to be officially unveiled at E3 in June.
As you can see in the video below, the technology, which was patented in 2011, projects visual elements that aren’t part of the normal TV viewing area against the wall, furniture, ceiling and area all around the TV. The focus of the gameplay is still the TV screen, but the level of immersion could be increased tenfold if the game world actually enveloped the player.
The potential for this technology is seemingly limitless, at least from a HUD standpoint. For instance, depending on what “extra data” were projected via the IllumiRoom sphere (see the diagram here), what if the inventory in an RPG were immediately visible (but not available to select) via the projection? What if a world map appeared on your wall? What if a running tally of high scores or your Friends’ activity were displayed on the ceiling?
I’d heard rumblings about IllumiRoom as recently as December, but the time didn’t seem prudent to send out what was nothing more than a glorified rumor. With this polished video, though, Microsoft Research clearly has a tangible, real product on its hands that’s quite likely to be incorporated into the next Xbox. Whether the peripheral is just that — a peripheral — or is included by default with the next console is still unknown. It’s also unclear whether the IllumiRoom will ship at the same time as the “Xbox 720,” or whether it will be one of those “coming soon” elements that keeps people interested.
All will be made clear (we hope) at E3 in June. We’ll be there, and you’d better believe we’ll bring you as much information as we can.