When Microsoft first unveiled its IllumiRoom technology at CES, it did so in an unusual way. The software giant traditionally reveals its research projects in short scrappy videos accompanied by research papers and a lot of technical jargon. IllumiRoom was different. Microsoft’s Chief Technology Strategy Officer, Eric Rudder, joined the Samsung keynote to showcase a video of an augmented reality projection unit designed to extend gaming onto nearby walls. The demo showed off a concept that appeared finely tuned, with what felt like a marketing video.
Microsoft described IllumiRoom as a "proof-of-concept system" and promised more information at a CHI 2013 event that starts this week. While the research team behind IllumiRoom will reveal the technical background on the project tomorrow, a fresh preview video has provided some additional information. "IllumiRoom envisions a next-generation gaming console with a projector that sits on your coffee table and surrounds your television with projected light," says the preview video of the technology.
"IllumiRoom can extend the gaming content out of your TV, creating a truly immersive experience. Or we can selectively show game elements, like explosions, or make it snow in our living room." Unlike the previous video, which included open source games like SuperTuxKart and Red Eclipse, the latest video includes a demo of Valve's Portal game. It doesn't prove that it's closer to reality, but it suggests Microsoft is mainly looking at this technology for gaming right now.
Microsoft has remained fairly quiet about its next-generation Xbox plans and IllumiRoom. The Verge spoke to Microsoft's Eric Rudder at TechForum in early March about IllumiRoom. Rudder and the Xbox team were quick to stress it's simply proof-of-concept, but they did share some basic information on how it works. "The LED is projecting for a frame and then turning it off and Kinect IR is reading those layovers," said Rudder. "Then the Kinect turns off for a frame and then the projector goes on and then Kinect will go back and forth." Rudder described the technology as "incredibly sophisticated," but that the experience is "oh, my TV got bigger, and I can project on anything because the surface doesn't need to be flat."
Shortly after Microsoft's first unveiling of IllumiRoom, we speculated it was connected to the company's next-generation Xbox and could be similar to Project Natal — the original codename for Kinect. Microsoft originally unveiled Kinect at E3 2009 before shipping the accessory over a year later. We're still waiting to hear the full details on IllumiRoom later this week, but a confirmation that it's linked to Microsoft's next-generation Xbox could mean we'll see a lot more at the company's May 21st event or at E3 in early June.