Shift up, gran! Microsoft turns living room into AR game 'space'

RoomAlive's projection mapping offers augmented reality gaming

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Microsoft has expanded its IllumiRoom research project into RoomAlive – a demo that combines Xbox Kinect and projectors to turn any room into an interactive augmented reality "space".

The RoomAlive demo is at the proof-of-concept phase, being a fairly low-budget-looking holodeck with games where you can whack at watery-looking characters on the walls or shoot them with guns.

Even though it's none too fancy right now, it's also far too expensive and massive for any actual living room to accommodate. However, Microsoft Researcher Brett Jones (in an article for said this type of interaction is what Microsoft imagines for the future of gaming.

“Users can touch, shoot, stomp, dodge and steer projected content that seamlessly co-exists with their existing physical environment," said Jones. "RoomAlive builds heavily on our last research project, IllumiRoom, which explored interactive projection mapping surrounding a television screen."

“IllumiRoom was largely focused on display, extending traditional gaming experiences out of the TV. RoomAlive instead focuses on interaction, and the new kinds of games that we can create with interactive projection mapping," added Jones.

In the demo, six Kinects are used to track the user's movement in the room, while a wide field of view projector and a computer take care of displays. The technique of using video projectors to animate every part of a room is the bit that's known as projection mapping.

“With one projector depth-camera unit, or procam, users can have IllumiRoom style experiences. If you have six procam units, you convert every square inch of your living room into an interactive display,” said Jones.

“For most projection mapping pieces, content must be painstakingly created for the particular object to be projected on. The artist must take into account the object shape and colour, along with the projector location, field of view, etc."

“RoomAlive enables game designers to create projection mapped games independent of the particular room that the content is displayed in,"said Jones. "All the content in RoomAlive is driven in real-time and dynamically adapts to the exact colour and geometry of the user's living room.” ®

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