Microsoft's 'RoomAlive' Turns Entire Room Into A Video Game

Microsoft has unveiled a new tech demo which uses the Kinect and a bunch of projectors to turn any room into a virtual reality experience.

Microsoft's 'RoomAlive' Turns Entire Room Into A Video Game

When it comes to video games, "virtual reality" has mostly been associated with big, bulky headsets like Facebook's Oculus Rift or Sony's Project Morpheus.

But Microsoft's taken a different approach to VR: the company's research division recently showed off RoomAlive, a tech demo aimed at mapping virtual reality onto an entire room.

IGN: "RoomAlive uses six projector cameras, essentially a projector coupled with a Kinect, to create an interactive environment within your living room. The procams simultaneously receive depth data from the room, while projecting the playspace over walls, furniture, and players."

The tech takes advantage of Microsoft's Kinect camera, an Xbox peripheral which can track motion and measure the dimensions of a room. Using that data, researchers built a full-room game of whack-a-mole and a top-down shooter, among other prototypes.

RoomAlive is the more advanced version of a previous tech demo, IllumiRoom, which Microsoft showed off at CES in 2013. That version used just one projector, turning one wall into a giant TV screen.

The concept seems pretty futuristic — which is probably why a bunch of outlets reporting on the demo made the predictable Star Trek connection.

But projection technology in games isn't a totally revolutionary concept. In 2011, Sony released this promotional video which made use of their own motion technology.

As some RoomAlive developers noted in a blog post, what's remarkable about their system is how easy it is to set up. The projection software auto-calibrates and is scalable, which makes RoomAlive "as easy to install as a light fixture."

Still, don't expect RoomAlive to make it into your living room any time soon — when IllumiRoom was first announced, a Microsoft exec said the system was too expensive to launch on Xbox One. And bolting six projectors into your ceiling probably drives the price up a bit more.

Although a consumer product might not be out for some time, Engadget notes "it's not hard to see huge potential in the research — not just in gaming, but also for fields like education or military training."

The research was presented at the User Interface Software and Technology Symposium, which runs from Oct. 5-8.

This video contains images from Getty Images and Official GDC / CC BY 2.0.