Microsoft shows off RoomAlive gaming platform

October 6, 2014 | 11:48

Tags: #illumiroom #kinect #projector #proof-of-concept

Companies: #microsoft #microsoft-research

Microsoft Research has released a demonstration of an upgraded IllumiRoom system dubbed RoomAlive, combining Kinect-style user tracking with projection mapping to create a seamless gaming environment.

IllumiRoom was unveiled by Microsoft early last year, using the combined power of a projector and the company's Kinect depth-sensing camera platform to bring the game out of the confines of the TV on which it was being played. A more practical use for the technology was showcased back in March, using the system to create multiple virtual viewports on the surfaces of a room that could be filled with web content. With its latest incarnation, Microsoft Research has gone back to gaming to create RoomAlive.

Put simply, RoomAlive is what you get when you combine IllumiRoom with the ability to track the movement of the user. Described by the company as a 'proof of concept,' RoomAlive builds on the same 'procam' platform - a projector depth-camera unit, a fancy name for a Kinect bolted to an off-the-shelf projector - as its predecessor but uses six to its predecessors single unit. By overlapping the input and output of each, the system is able to turn every part of the wall and floor into an interactive display surface. A depth map created by the Kinect sensor allows the image to detect surfaces like chairs, tables and shelves, turning them into part of the game environment while also pre-distorting the projected image so it appears correct to the viewer.

The immersion is further extended by tracking the viewer's head position and rendering the images to create a parallax effect simulating three dimensions. Although not suitable for a room with more than one inhabitant, the effect is quite convincing for those who play by themselves. Using the system, a player can move around the room and interact with the images in a variety of ways - right down to holding a fake plastic gun and shooting at projected enemies.

Sadly, Microsoft has yet to capitalise on any of this technology with commercial products - and if IllumiRoom's single projector and Kinect bundle was likely to price it out of the market, RoomAlive's requirement for six of each suggest that it'll be seen exclusively at trade shows and the like for the near future.

More details of the project are available at Projection Mapping Central, while a demonstration video is provided below.

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