While Apple was on stage showing off its thinner, longer new iPhone earlier, Microsoft is already thinking way into the future. A future where the Kinect is only the beginning of voice and whole body control. Yeah, what you’re looking at above could be your future holodeck.
Microsoft’s patent for an “immersive display experience” was published by the US Patent Office last week after being filed back in early 2011. It describes a standard video game system with a connected “environmental display” capable of projecting a panoramic image that “appears to surround the user.”
Such a projector wouldn’t replace the central TV display used in current consoles, but it would provide a “peripheral image” that would “serve as an extension” of that primary display. The purpose, of course, is to extend the gaming environment outside of the TV screen, so a player could, for instance, “turn around and observe an enemy sneaking up from behind.”
The display device as described is integrated tightly with a depth-sensing camera system (read: Kinect) that could even be housed in the same casing as the environmental projector, according to the patent. This device could be a standard two-camera, structured-light-sensing system like the current Kinect, or a more sophisticated model that could include “multiple image capture devices” to “stitch a panoramic image from a plurality of captured images” pointed in all directions around the room.
Regardless of the form, the depth-sensing camera described in the patent aids the environmental projector by sensing the layout and topography of the room. This allows the projector to provide color and distortion correction, so the projected images look correct even when cast against different walls and pieces of furniture.
In addition, the environmental display could use player position information provided by the camera system to “adjust an apparent perspective of the peripheral image display,” making sure the environment continues to look natural as the player moves around the room. The patent even describes creating a “shielded” region in the projected image where the player is standing, so light doesn’t shine directly in a player’s eyes as they look in the direction of the projector.
Projected images in the system described by the patent “may be displayed at a lower resolution than the primary image,” but the document suggests this would not “adversely affect [the] user experience.” The projected images wouldn’t necessarily just sit flat against the wall, either—they could work with stereoscopic 3D glasses for an added sense of depth and realism, according to the patent. That last part gels somewhat with the “Fortaleza glasses” concept for a heads-up, augmented reality display mentioned in Microsoft documents leaked in June.
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