Microsoft Research has moved on from IllumiRoom, its concept for adding visuals to the periphery of gamers' television sets. After concluding that that system -- which used a Kinect camera and a projector to bring video games into the living room -- was too expensive to be released commercially, the company has revealed RoomAlive, which is even more expensive and even less practical. Thankfully, it's also an intriguing glimpse at the possible future of gaming.

RoomAlive adds a new dimension to gaming. Literally. Using projection mapping, video games can be brought to life in your own living room. Instead of merely playing a game on a screen, RoomAlive puts you in the game, with visual elements projected onto the walls and surfaces of your living room. Using Kinect sensors, these visual elements are interactive, meaning, for example, that you can point and shoot at an enemy sitting on top of a cupboard.

The core component of RoomAlive is multiple projector depth-camera units, or procams. Each of these comprises a projector, a Kinect sensor, and a computer. The projector throws the images onto the walls and surfaces of the room you're in, while the Kinect tracks your movements through the gaming environment. IllumiRoom used one procam, but RoomAlive requires six procams.

RoomAlive displays the relevant images on all of the walls and surfaces of the room it's being used in, so the system will work regardless of the shape of the room or the furniture contained therein.

The team behind RoomAlive has created four interactive experiences designed to take advantage of the system, all of which can be seen in action in the video below. Setting The Stage turns your living room into different environments, Whack-A-Mole allows you to stamp or shoot annoying moles which pop up randomly around the room, Robot Attack sees you controlling a virtual character battling robots, and Traps has you trying to avoid traps as they spring up on the walls and floor.

As with IllumiRoom, RoomAlive is a proof-of-concept prototype that would currently be too expensive to install in the average living room. However, it shows Microsoft Research looking at the ways we could all be gaming in the future, which, on this evidence, is unlikely to mean sitting passively on the sofa staring at a big flat TV.

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