IllumiRoom – Coming to an Xbox Near You?

CES.jpgFor a company with no official presence at CES this year, Microsoft still seems to be generating a fair amount of CES buzz for themselves.  First came a surprise appearance by none other than Steve Ballmer during Monday’s Qualcomm pre-show keynote, and now, an interesting proof of concept video from Samsung’s keynote earlier today.  While this is by no means an official product announcement (yet), this collaborative effort between Samsung and Microsoft, dubbed IllumiRoom, looks to expand the Xbox’s field of play beyond the TV Screen. Imagine playing a shooter where your entire living room becomes the battlefield, or perhaps a music visualizer where each wall can become its own unique stylized panel.  At its core, IllumiRoom is little more than a Kinect  – used both for voice command, and to approximate the size of the viewing area, a projector, and an Xbox 360. Working in tandem with a projector, one’s viewing area in theory can become as large as their surrounding walls; why settle for a 50″ display, when you theoretically could have a 50 cubic feet display?

Check out the video from Microsoft Research below.

Some points of interest about IllumiRoom, and the technology behind it: firstly, it is clearly designed with gaming in mind. In the video, the IllumiRoom technology is activated with a simple “Xbox, go big” voice command, turning what began as a single screen first person shooter to an all-encompassing playing experience. Coupled with the rumored incremental update to Kinect, suddenly that experience begins feeling participatory; dodging enemies on all sides, or throwing a virtual football with pinpoint accuracy to a teammate behind you are both possibilities.  Second, do not expect this to become a feature in the current generation Xbox hardware. Xbox 360 is much too far along in its life cycle for an update of this scope. IllumiRoom is more likely as a possible feature in the new Xbox, although anticipating it at launch may be somewhat premature. Third, bear in mind that until Microsoft says otherwise, this technology is just a proof of concept, that may or may not ever come to fruition. Even so, the idea of a next generation Xbox, capable of whole-room entertainment, has us collectively excited. Forgive the pun, but for Microsoft, this could be a real game changer.