Xbox 720 release date rumors have included talk of Xbox SmartGlass integration, Blu-Ray compatibility and a $500-700 price tag. But the latest rumor heaped on the 'What if?' pile came from this week's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Microsoft featured a video during Samsung's CES presentation that showcased a new form of interactive technology, IllumiRoom. Take a look at the video:
"IllumiRoom is a proof-of-concept Microsoft Research project designed to push the boundary of living room immersive entertainment by blending our virtual and physical worlds with projected visualizations," the Illumiroom YouTube description reads. "The effects in the video are rendered in real time and are captured live - not special effects added in post processing."
Now, since I am a rabid watchdog on the Xbox 720 beat my gamer-sense starts tingling almost immediately. The man in the video simply speaks the phrase "Xbox, go big." While it is clearly an Xbox 360 in the demo room, eagle-eared rumor mongerers will remember the Gizmodo report that the Xbox 720 will likely be called just 'Xbox.' So, from the start, this video had me wondering if this is more than just a simple demo.
I'm not alone in that wondering. Pocket-lint is also speculating that Microsoft's IllumiRoom technology could be part of the Xbox 720 release date. Pocket-lint links back to a report from June that featured some images from a (briefly) leaked document that, allegedly, details some of the features of the Xbox 720. It shows that Microsoft has plans to use the xbox 720 to create an 'augmented reality' that could possibly use technology similar to Google Glass. So if Microsoft is looking to turn your whole room into an interactive experience, is IllumiRoom the way to go?
It certainly looks like it based on the demo video. As the anonymous, ethnically-ambiguous twenty or thirty something man sits in the fake living room and plays the Xbox 360, we can see the walls light up around him, occasionally displaying the images he's seeing on the screen but expanding them beyond the borders of his TV. The technology uses both the Kinect and a projector (not pictured) to create the dazzling visual milieu.
Tech fans were singing its praises on Twitter today:
I've been talking about playing games like this for 30 years: Kinect turns yourliving room into a video game sbn.to/RGpKzj
— Jake Birkett (@GreyAlien) January 10, 2013
Wow. Watch this video now. THIS is the future in our living rooms.thenextweb.com/microsoft/2013...
— Scott Hanselman (@shanselman) January 10, 2013
Obviously, people are excited for the technology to take gaming beyond the TV screen, but I find myself wondering what the logistics of the whole thing will be. Based on the speculated timetable for the Xbox 720 release date, it seems as though IllumiRoom will be released AFTER the next gen console comes to market. What was demoed at CES was just a prototype and Microsoft gave no info on a release date or price point for the technology.
The second, more pressing issue I have with IllumiRoom is that it requires people to set up a projector in their homes somewhere. As this website illustrates, setting up a wall or ceiling mounted projector is not a simple task. So, I think the real challenge for Microsoft when it comes to pairing the Illumiroom with the Xbox 720 release date (if that's their plan and, based on the gaming centric nature of the demo video, it probably is) is finding a way to simplify the projector mounting process. That means a wireless projector, which means battery power. That means you'll need to charge it, so it will have to come with a removable, rechargeable battery or be so easy to install that taking it down to charge is no big deal.
There's a reason the home projector market isn't nearly as popular as the TV market. In 2010, 8.5 million projectors were sold worldwide. By comparison, 211 million TVs were sold in 2009. Projectors are cool, but setting them up isn't nearly as easy as opening a box and plugging in a TV set. If Microsoft wants to include IllumiRoom as part of the Xbox 720 release date package, they could be opening themselves up to some negative feedback from consumers who want to open the box and start playing, not measure ceiling height to figure out the optimal projector throw ratio.
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