It’s always interesting to look back to see what the future looks like for tech companies in 10 years’ time. An example of this kind of forward thinking was first revealed in January 2013 at the annual CES trade show. Microsoft announced. A new idea for home gaming called IllumiRoom.
This concept, on the surface, was easy enough to understand. IllumiRoom combined a projector with an Xbox game console and a Kinect motion-sensing camera. However, instead of sensing and scanning a person, the Kinect camera will actually turn and scan the room.
The Kinect will be connected to the projector which will then connect to the Xbox console. The projector will then produce moving images outside of a standard television, but will also take into account the environment around the TV. The result was that gamers could see the main action on their TV, but also see images outside the television, such as map outlines, explosions outside the TV’s field of view, etc.
It was cutting edge technology at the time. In a follow-up article I wrote in April 2013, I explained some ways to use IllumiRoom:
IllumiRoom features a number of possible illusions, including highlighting the edges of the room, radial wobble that simulates in-game interactions, snow illusions to amplify background effects in the room, and various drifts. Augmented reality situations including objects falling out of the TV. Surround
However, the IllumiRoom concept never progressed beyond the research stage, at least at Microsoft. It’s actually easy to learn why. Back then, most of the flat screen TVs used in living rooms were much smaller than they are today. Actually, one A report by research firm Statistica states That in 2013, the average size of an LCD TV in the US was 39 inches. It is now considered a small to mid-size TV for the home in 2023. In fact, most PC game monitors are now as large or larger. The same firm says that the average TV size is now more than 50 inches.
In addition, technology leaps such as going from HD to 4K, (and in some cases 8K), with more advanced displays like OLED and Mini-LED, using higher refresh rates, and more have given gamers more teleportation to give gamers. The vision has been made much more modern. A much more immersive experience. Consumers can go even further if they buy short-throw projectors and screens that can give the living room up to 150 inches for gaming, at prices that are getting more affordable all the time.
In short, the IllumiRoom was a solution to the problem of small gaming TVs that were eventually superseded by bigger, better, and cheaper TVs, and this trend is likely to continue for some time.
However, the technology used to power the IllumiRoom hasn’t completely disappeared. In 2017, the project’s lead researcher, Brett Jones, left Microsoft and co-founded a company. Light form. Like IllumiRoom, Lightform created devices that map the outside world, and then project animations and effects onto those environments. Unlike IllumiRoom which was intended for gaming, Lightform was an art and marketing tool for businesses to create cool looking visual experiences. It was also used as a backdrop for music videos and commercials.
Unfortunately, the company was hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, as businesses shut down and their need for something like Lightform was drastically reduced. While the company tried to pivot by creating a new projector for smaller indoor spaces like the home, Lightform eventually shut down in 2022.
Although projector-based video mapping devices such as IllumiRoom and Lightform products have not become mainstream consumer devices, it is possible that projector technology will become better, and more importantly, cheaper, in the future. If that happens, the immersive gaming and home experience could go in directions we can’t currently predict.