Microsoft's RoomAlive turns your den into a video game level

Remember IllumiRoom? It's the Microsoft Research project that pairs an Xbox Kinect with a projector to extend your TV onto a wall, resulting in an immersive (and hallucinogenic) experience. Redmond has just revealed that IllumiRoom 2.0 is now called RoomAlive and is a huge leap over what it was last year. The new system projects content throughout a room that you can interact with (or shoot), as shown in the insane video below. Instead of a single Kinect and projector, it uses multiple "procams" consisting of off-the-shelf projectors, Kinects and a control device. Microsoft claims that it's completely auto-calibrating and self-locating, enabling it to calculate the entire 3D geometry of your room in minutes.

Once installed, RoomAlive can track you and your weapons while you hit, kick or shoot creatures. It can also project textures and cyber-critters onto your walls and furniture, transforming your den into a holodeck or a factory, for example. Another demo brought to mind the 3D game in the movie Her, with the player controlling a character that avoids killer "robots" emerging from your walls and floor. Finally, there's a game that requires you to physically dodge booby traps, with any failure resulting in a virtual bloody wound projected onto your body.

It looks very slick, despite still being far from an actual product you can buy. In any case, not too many folks could afford to rig up a room with multiple projectors and Kinects the way Microsoft did. Still, as with Oculus, it's not hard to see huge potential in the research -- not just in gaming, but also for fields like education or military training. And unlike the Rift, it could one day transform consoles into something that actually gets us off the couch.

[Image credits: Microsoft Research]