The Kinect can grant gamers something that years of graphics advancements could not - peripheral vision.
Back in September, Microsoft raised eyebrows when it filed a patent for an "immersive display experience" not unlike the coveted Holodeck. The project seems to be making progress - a prototype of the system, dubbed IllumiRoom, was demoed at the Consumer Electronics Show, and it's not too shabby. A proof of concept video provides a few glimpses of what gaming would look like with IllumiRoom dropping the player right into the middle of the action.
The product utilizes a Kinect for Windows camera to scan the room, mapping the geometry of the environment. During gameplay, a projector located somewhere in the middle of the room splashes images generated by the game across the walls and furniture, effectively creating a range of peripheral vision to immerse players in the world of the game. These effects aren't too detailed - you won't be getting crisp 1080p textures projected onto your TV stand - but they serve their intended purpose of providing context outside of the television itself, which remains the focal point of the play experience.
The demo does not fail to impress. According to the video description, there's no post-processing mumbo-jumbo involved here; all the effects seen are generated in real time by IllumiRoom. The video predictably spends a lot of time showing off first-person shooters enhanced by projections, since the added immersion looks most effective with that up-close-and-personal perspective. Several different modes of projection are used: in some shots the entire environment is projected, giving the action a larger-than-life vibe; other times only particle effects like flames, glowing projectiles, and powerups are visible outside the screen. Weapon fire is emphasized by subtle tremors that expand to jarring quakes in the projected environment, lending considerable weight to the combat on the television. A cart-racing game is also displayed, with the projector creating the illusion of snowflakes falling around the living room to match the snow level on the screen.
Details are scarce on when we'll be able to deploy this technology in our own living rooms, or how much our wallets will hate us for doing so. Microsoft says you'll want to keep an eye out at CHI 2013 in April for more information.