The Kinect Could No Longer Be Just for Dancing after Seeing This Research on RoomAlive

Microsoft discussed it's latest research project, RoomAlive, and it has some fairly interesting things to show us.
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The company that brought you the peripheral that watches you dance is now using the same technology to extend the gaming experience to your entire living room.

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Microsoft Researchers have been working on the realm of Augmented Reality for a while; the last foray into it was with IllumiRoom, back in 2013. It was a concept that extended the games visuals and environments outside of the confined space of the TV. We could finally see the game world that is typically out of view while we move forward in the game, with it projected within the room around us, while the main camera was on the screen per the norm. So buildings, cars, streets could all be seen even when they were off-screen, it certainly could have helped when you had multiple enemies you couldn’t see.

 It gave a sense of immersion to the player as it allowed for low resolution visuals to surround the gamer while the focus was on the high-definition visuals.

Microsoft’s newest research project, RoomAlive, takes IllumiRoom one step further.  The concept behind RoomAlive is a series of projectors and Kinect Cameras that survey the room and analyze the outlines that are present. Taking these images, the system then projects the image of a game along the walls and floor, turning your living room into a living, breathing game world.

Now what is interesting is how complex the system is, as it can read everything that exists within your room. The table, chairs, bookshelves, and even any person standing there will be taken into account. It can distinguish the vertical and horizontal lines of the room and these items, it then learns how to change the projection based on what is present.

The video demonstration showed off 4 dynamic modes; Landscape, Whack-a-Mole, a virtual character you control, and Traps. These examples each displayed a core element of the system, giving us looks at both landscape projection and interaction of the player. The video can show you more but I took note of a few important/interesting things:

  • Microsoft can now change your room into a Holodeck or a rainy river

  • The Whack-a-mole feature gives us a hint that gun controllers are possible future peripherals

  • The Virtual Character is basically a projected TV screen but shows the control mechanics can work well when involved in such a disjointed display

  • The traps have health displays, but not in a health bar. You will see blood splatter if you don’t dodge the spikes in time

The concept is interesting, and within each demonstration the possibilities raise the bar for future games and increase the likelihood of us seeing augmented reality games on this large of a scale in our time. Hopefully.

With ideas like this, Microsoft was bound to get flack from the players themselves. I saw plenty of comments from those that watched the video who didn’t think the idea would move past conception:

While some believe the way forward is with Virtual Reality Headsets, such as the Oculus Rift which is now in development:

From this view of their research, Microsoft is pushing the limits of what we can perceive gaming to become down the line. With the right minds behind projects like this, we might even get some massively immersive AAA games in our distant future. While there are those who say it’s so far away from being practical, it at least sets us in the right direction for advancements.

Kinect users now rejoice, as their peripheral will eventually be able to do more than just watch them shake their groove thing and execute base commands for them.

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Jay Prodigious
Have been writing since I can remember, have always loved reviews (gaming mostly), and have a knack for the written word.