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Microsoft's 'RoomAlive' turns the living room into an augmented-reality game

Owen S. Good is a longtime veteran of video games writing, well known for his coverage of sports and racing games.

Last year's "Illumiroom" concept turned a lot of heads when Microsoft showed it off at CES. Now Microsoft's research division is back with something even more complicated: "RoomAlive," which turns a living room into an interactive augmented reality space.

Illumiroom was eye catching, but all it did was extend the field of view for a traditional video game beyond a television screen, projecting a larger image surrounding it onto the walls and floor. RoomAlive, though also in the research stages only, is even more complex, and brings the user off the couch to interact with the environment it renders on the furniture and other surfaces.

This video gives a much clearer idea of how that works than words alone. There are game concepts specific to RoomAlive that are shown, including a whack-a-mole type of game (where a gun peripheral is recognized) and an interactive danger room where traps pop out off the walls.

There's no way this monitor-and-projection camera rig is either inexpensive or standardized enough to be commercially viable right now, so take all of this as a proof-of-concept only. Still, it isn't just a battery of projectors creating a super-large viewing surface. Six Kinect sensors follow the player's head around the play space, and RoomAlive's software recognizes the different surfaces in the room's layout and adapts the video game to them.

The next level of puzzles.

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