Xbox 720 will do without IllumiRoom at launch, Microsoft confirms

Microsoft's IllumiRoom technology, which turns your living room into an augmented reality gaming arena by expanding graphics from the confines of your TV, won't be baked in time for the next-gen Xbox, the company has confirmed. The projection technology, which uses Kinect to digitally map a room and then digitally overlay dynamically changing graphics linked to the on-screen entertainment, will be shown off in concept form this year, Microsoft Research's Hrvoje Benko and Brett Jones confirmed to Engadget, but is nowhere near ready for commercial release.

In fact, IllumiRoom won't get shown to the public until Siggraph in July, missing out E3 2013 in the process. The tech is "working well" according to the researchers, but it's still in the early stages of development.

Microsoft has been dripping details around IllumiRoom for some months now, after surprising attendees at Samsung's CES press conference back in January with a demo of the augmented reality system. Currently pairing a Kinect for Windows with a basic projector and a PC, IllumiRoom first automatically maps the user's living room and then creates a 3D wireframe which can be used to extend play off of the screen and into the surrounding area.

So, explosions on-screen can cause ripples that spread out around your TV cabinet and beyond, while fireballs can spread outside the limits of your screen. Alternatively, IllumiRoom can be used to heighten the mood of the game, creating virtual snow, for instance, that can not only fall within the room but accumulate on shelves and tables.

Microsoft Research's attentions aren't just on gaming, however, despite the obvious applications for Xbox. The IllumiRoom system could also be used to make TV and movies more immersive; in a newly released paper for the CHI 2013 conference this week, the team shows a DIY dual-field-of-view camcorder prototype which simultaneously captures the core video and its extended surroundings, the latter to be projected around the TV.

Nonetheless, while it won't be ready any time soon, IllumiRoom's primary purpose looks to be extending the immersive gameplay of the next-gen "Xbox 720", an obvious way to build value into the console in the face of low-cost casual gaming on smartphones and tablets. Considering Kinect followed on after the Xbox 360 had already been in the market for some time, there's nothing to say that IllumiRoom couldn't arrive after Xbox 720 has bedded down into living rooms, providing a mid-life refresh of sorts.