Xbox IllumiRoom – Every Sci-Fi Fan’s Wet Dream

Ok, so let me just start this off by saying that I am equal parts unreasonably excited and cautious about this. After all, what kind of Star Trek and video games fan could see the words ‘Holodeck’ and ‘Xbox 720’ in the same headline and not need a minute (or a day or so) to compose themselves? So what is this proclaimed ‘Holodeck’ technology patented by Microsoft in September of last year and introduced to the world in a proof-of-concept video at CES 2013 a few days ago? Is it really the Holodeck from Star Trek? Of course not. Is it still friggin’ awesome? Yes.

The IllumiRoom is intended to create a more immersive gaming experience by extending the image on your TV screen and projecting it onto the room around you, essentially turning your whole room into your game space. To do this the Kinect is used for mapping and video projectors do the rest. In the words of Microsoft, IllumiRoom

“can change the appearance of the room, induce apparent motion, extend the field of view, and enable entirely new game experiences.”

How it actually works in practice sort of defies explanation, so check out the video below and prepare to weep happy tears:

According to Microsoft, the video is filmed live with no special effects added post-production. If that’s really how it will look and play, I will be impressed. Now, if you hear a note of skepticism, you’re right. I did say I was cautious about this as I’m sure anyone who’s ever bought the Kinect will undoubtedly feel. Sure it looks cool, but as it was said in the OXM article above, that doesn’t mean anything if developers don’t actually make games that use the technology the way it’s supposed to be used. Look what happened to the Kinect. How many games can you think of that effectively uses motion control and is the kind of game that a non-casual gamer might actually want to play?

My other major issue from the video is that while the game environment might be extended, it doesn’t look like you can actually interact with it. If you’re playing a game and you’ve got this huge field of vision, but in reality you’re actually limited by your TV screen, because that’s the only place you can shoot your enemies, what’s the point? It might actually have the opposite effect and take away from the realism if there are elements you can’t interact with. The good news is that the Microsoft patent does mention the use of 3D graphics and some level of interactivity, so we’ll see whether they actually implement it and can do it properly. I’d love to see them using the whole room and not just the area around the screen and be able to turn around and shoot at enemies behind me as it was speculated you might be able to when the patent was first published.

It’s definitely a new and interesting concept, but we’ll just have to see if it lives up to expectations. Now give me this and I’ll be impressed:

We don’t know yet whether the tech will be included as part of the Xbox 720 or whether we’ll have to fork out the extra cash for it. Microsoft has promised more info at CHI 2013 on the 27th April, so stay tuned!

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4 responses to “Xbox IllumiRoom – Every Sci-Fi Fan’s Wet Dream

  1. Great article Sam! That tech seems really cool, but I have a feeling I’d have to redesign my entire room to make it work (my TV sits in the corner…and near a window. Yep, not optimal).

    • Thanks! Yeah that’s definitely another problem with it. I’m not sure how many people have their TVs positioned against a nice blank wall with tons of space on either side like they do in the video. We may all need to do some major redecorating!

  2. Hmm, I think I’ll have to reserve judgement on this one. To be honest the feature seems a bit gimmicky, from the video it looks as though it could just be projecting pretty lights onto your wall. Might be a bit of fun for a few games but do you think it’ll actually add anything concrete to the experience?

    • I totally agree. As it is it may not add too much to the experience, beyond making the game you’re playing look slightly better. I think to really make it last, they’d have to add an element of interactivity or at least something that would actually definitively enhance the gameplay. There’s still a chance that might happen though, so we’ll have to see. Fingers crossed!

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