CES 2013: Microsoft's IllumiRoom Makes Games Huge & Immersive

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Steve Anderson
The Video Store Guy
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CES 2013: Microsoft's IllumiRoom Makes Games Huge & Immersive

Perhaps one of the most sought after effects in all of gaming is immersion, that feeling of being "in the world" in which gaming is happening. Feeling like you're "there", losing hours as part of this larger experience. But something new has emerged from the still-going Consumer Electronics Show that may well put the immersion factor into just about any game out there.

Microsoft showed off what they're currently calling the "IllumiRoom" system, which combines the Kinect for Windows camera with a projector to change the appearance of the room in which your television is located, making the television part of a larger tableau. This in turn is set to not only give users a wider field of view--possibly allowing users to see incoming enemies and the like--but also lending an extra feeling of motion, as things move into frame and exit.

There's an accompanying video along with this currently on YouTube, and the whole affair starts with saying "Xbox / Go big", allowing users to start using the IllumiRoom system. Those who have seen Paranormal Activity 4, or just know how a Kinect in general works, are already fairly familiar with how the whole thing will work.

While gameplay elements don't seem to be in long supply on the IllumiRoom screen, there are some extra touches that add an extra note of immersion to the whole affair. For instance, one sequence involves a round of Mario Kart in a winter level. Snow is falling visibly on the wall around the screen, not just on screen, making it seem like users are looking into a small window. First person shooters got a look at the area around them, the kind of thing that might be helpful when trying to figure out just where someone went in a deathmatch setting.

It's a clever idea, no mistake, but in its early stage, it looks like more of a gimmick than anything else. Of course, we're not seeing a whole lot of it, and the more of it we see, the more we may find use for it. That, and it's not hard to see that this may be the first step in a gaming development that has been long since anticipated, the common name of which is a gamer's term to conjure with: the holodeck.

All advances have to start somewhere. While the IllumiRoom isn't exactly the greatest thing we've ever seen, yet, it may well be the start of something truly amazing.
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