Your Living Room Is Now the Television

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Technology companies have been chasing the idea of a truly immersive entertainment experience — think Star Trek-style holodeck — for a long time. Now scientists at Microsoft Research have developed IllumiRoom, a Kinect-based system that blurs the lines between virtual and reality.

It consists of a 3D TV, a Kinect camera and a projector. The 3D TV plays movies, shows and video games like any other television. During a show or video game, the Kinect camera registers the shape and contours of a room while the projector shines images from the show or video game onto the walls. The technology basically extends the images from the television beyond the frame of the screen and onto the walls and can also induce apparent motion. So if the viewer is playing a video game where a bomb explodes, images on the screen and the wall shake after the bomb detonates.

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The setup takes advantage of the fact that a person’s peripheral vision is less acute than direct line of sight. As the person watches a movie or plays a game, any action in the peripheral field will create the illusion of a larger, more immersive experience, even if the images aren’t in hi-def. The projector can also compensate for the colors of the room and the furniture in it, so it doesn’t require that your room have white white walls and furniture. It can’t make a red surface appear green or blue, but it can make the room appear to move by projecting a still background that then moves suddenly.

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There will be some issues to work out, though. Not all living rooms are the same shape and size and so if movies or games are made with the IllumiRoom in mind, the end result may not suit all viewers. But it is a step in the right direction.

The research team is presenting their work at the ACM SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems in Paris this week.

Credit: Microsoft