In 2013 Microsoft Research demonstrated a very exciting technology named IllumiRoom which used a single projector to expand video from a single screen onto the walls and furniture in the room. It is mind blowing and uses only a cheap commodity projector to project the images calculated by a commodity Kinect camera system. It was very exciting and I, like many others, expected it to be released with the Xbox One as an addon at some point in 2014 or 2015, but it did not happen.
So what did happen to Illumiroom? Well, it morphed into an even larger product called RoomAlive (also from Microsoft Research) which uses 5 or 6 commodity projectors and Kinect’s to fill a room with Augmented Reality content. Like IllumiRoom, RoomAlives’ Kinects and projectors autoscan the room and self configure, but unlike IllumiRoom, RoomAlive does not make use of screen. Rather, the whole room becomes the screen.
In 2014 Microsoft’s resident gamers “Major Nelson” posted:
We said when IllumiRoom came out, it was a tech demo. It was never announced as a product, or something you’d be able to buy. People got really excited about it, because it was really cool, but it was just a… “hey, let’s see if we can do this and figure out what to do with it.”
There are a lot of smart people running around Microsoft to invent a lot of really cool things that don’t immediately become products.
In April of 2015 Microsoft made a RoomAlive developer tool kit available. But since that time there has been near radio silence on both of these technologies; no announcements and no more demo’s at various developer conferences or CES.
Personally I think RoomAlive looks a little “bush league” even though I know it is far more costly and complex to program and configure. IllumiRoom has the characteristics of an exciting retail product that is nearly ready for release. RoomAlive, on the other hand, looks like it has many more development cycles in front of it and will only ever be practical in commercial settings.
It appears that Microsoft has no plans to release either IllimiRoom or RoomAlive as standalone consumer products. Instead, they have morphed the technology into their Augmented Reality / Virtual Reality systems. Specifically, the room scanning technology is being pushed into the Xbox One line (Xbox One, Xbox One S and the soon to be released Xbox One ‘Project Scorpio).
I quite like Augmented Reality and Mixed Reality headsets but I think IllimiRoom could be a viable product that would provide much the same experience but without the need for a headset and the nausea that often comes with it.