At the tail end of the last console gaming generation, Microsoft revealed IllumiRoom to the world, which many expected to go along with their as-of-then unnamed next generation console, but we have not heard much about the device since. Yesterday Microsoft Research revealed the follow-up to the room-immersion system now titled RoomAlive, which uses several depth cameras and over-the-counter projectors to cover your living room instead of one Kinect for Windows sensor and a projector like the previous iteration.
Unlike that IllumiRoom demo posted a year ago, RoomAlive looks much closer to a real product that could exist and less like a sci-fi dream mockup. It certainly looks rougher, but the fact that it can now take up an entire room and not just a single wall is pretty huge. The many cameras and sensors the system requires will track your every move in real time and change the wall displays accordingly and, thanks to the depth cameras required, you won’t even have to move much furniture out of the way as RoomAlive can cover right over it seamlessly. As long as cameras are given a bit of overlap there will, reportedly, be almost no set up required other than physically placing the cameras thanks to RoomAlive’s auto-calibration.
In the video demo posted above, Microsoft Research shows off several different scenarios that it can be used in, such as texturing your walls to be one of several environments, a Whack-A-Mole game that looks like it could easily be a Kinect title, a game that sets traps around your room you must avoid or be “hit” by spikes like a virtual Indiana Jones, and a third-person shooting game that lets you sit on the couch and control a character that moves around your room. If Microsoft is smart and learned from their failures with Kinect and the excitement around the Oculus Rift VR Headset, they would focus more on the last example.
Call it whatever you want, but gamers have proved time and time again that they are not interested in games that make them get up and move. A lot of people play games after a long day of working and just want to relax and shoot things on a screen while sinking into their couch. The idea of controlling Master Chief as he runs around your living room is pretty exciting, and warms my gamer heart more than the idea of searching around the room for a mole to whack.
The system is obviously still very far off but, like the Oculus Rift, the Sony Morpheus, Google Cardboard, and the slew of other virtual reality devices coming down the pipe, the future is looking good for anyone wanting to be virtually transported to a different world. RoomAlive’s major hurdle is going to price. While all those other VR devices can be used with another single machine (Xbox, PlayStation, PC, etc) and that’s it, Microsoft’s VR effort is going to require several expensive projectors, and an entire dimly-lit room to use it in. It was never mentioned if it will also require an Xbox One, PC, or other special hardware, but one would imagine so. The demo showed it using a Kinect camera attached to a projector, but it is not confirmed that you will need a Kinect specifically, just a depth camera. Either way, this experience is going to be pricey.
No word on how close this demo was to the final product or when we’ll get an official release, but the demo claims that all clips were captured in real-time with no post editing or manipulation so that could point to it being closer than naught. Is RoomAlive something you’d be willing to shell out for? Let us know what you think about the evolution of IllumiRoom in the comments below, or on Facebook, Google+, or Twitter.