• IllumiRoom: Video Projection Mapping Meets Video Game

                My name is Dustin Rudzinski. In addition to being an avid gamer, I also run a production company called Port City Media Productions. We do all sorts of event production, ranging from audio/video production to projections, L.E.D. screens, and more. Part of what we do is known as projection mapping. Projection mapping is the art of projecting image "textures" onto 3D objects. You can project video, still images, or even CG models of the object back onto itself, which then can be animated to make the object appear as if it is moving. For instance, project a CG spinning white cube onto a real world white cube, and align the angles and sizes just right so the CG projection maps perfectly to the real cube, and you can give the illusion that the real cube is spinning.

                One of our recent video mapping installations being built.

                This technique has become quite popular in recent years. Many popular artists ranging from Skrillex to Roger Waters have used video projection mapping. Entire buildings have been video mapped to promote new products.

                An entire building being video projection mapped.

                Now, thanks to Microsoft, video mapping is entering the living room. Meet IllumiRoom.

                As you can see, this is a projector add on for Xbox Kinect, which is likely made for the next generation version of Kinect. This presents all kinds of new gameplay possibilities, but also comes with it's restrictions. I'll touch on possibilities first.

                One thing that this could add would be the ability to video map the environment around the TV, and make it react to certain things in the game. In the video you can see that Kinect has mapped out the entertainment center and floor in front of the TV, and is causing it to "ripple" at times when the game triggers it. Get shot, see your whole living room react. Cool concept. You could use this to trigger cues, such as the direction the shot came from, without cluttering up the screen.

                You could also use it for communication. Keep your TV screen strictly for gameplay, but video chat with your friends as their faces are projected on the wall behind your TV. With certain game styles, take the action off the screen entirely and play portions of the game off screen. You could also do this with certain menu items you'd otherwise have to pause the game to access.

                Since it shows the ability to actually build a 3D model of your room and project that back onto the real room, you could have characters jumping in and our of drawers in your entertainment center, fighters fighting on top, there's quite a few new possibilities this opens up for new types of gameplay.

                However, this is where we start to run into the issues that this system will face in the real world. As someone who does this for a living, these are the main concerns I would have about a system that does video mapping completely automated, the way this system claims to.

                1. Video mapping is a very precise art form. Even being off by a centimeter, when seen up close, can stick out like a sore thumb. We'll spend anywhere from hours to weeks getting everything to align just right, depending on the complexity of the installation. This system will need a high resolution depth sensing camera to pull this off, and even then I'm still skeptical.

                2. Resolution is key. The projector's resolution will determine exactly what it can and cannot be used for when it comes to gameplay possibilities. Low resolution projectors will have much larger pixels, and fewer of them, which does not work well for video mapping when you already have to deal with your pixels being stretched and skewed across the various 3D surfaces you are mapping the video to.

                3. Brightness requirements. If this thing is any lower than 2000 lumens, it won't be very useful for even small room video mapping unless the room is completely blacked out with no ambient light. It already has to compete with the light coming from the TV. Even 2000 lumens is on the very low end of what you'd ever want to use for video mapping. We won't mess with less than 5,000 lumens for what we do. Some may argue that they have a projector that is X number of lumens dimmer than the numbers I've quoted here, and that it looks fine. That can be true in some cases, but you must remember that this kit is projecting onto a wide variety of different surfaces, different colors, and all in different ambient lighting conditions. Not all living room or bedroom setups will lend themselves to projection as well as others.

                4. With brightness and resolution comes cost... and lots of it. Do some searching around for how much a good XGA (1024x768) 2500 lumen projector costs, then toss in a Kinect to do the video mapping, and finally an Xbox. Not even taking the rumored Kinect augmented reality glasses into account, you're already talking about one expensive console. The rumors about the console having a 2 year Xbox Live! contract to offset it's cost start sounding a lot more plausible.

                Those issues aside, Microsoft has come out with a product that I consider innovative, and it's the first thing about Kinect that has me excited. This device has a lot of challenges to overcome before it will make it beyond being just a cool toy you show off to friends. It has plenty of potential to create new gameplay styles that we've never seen before. However, at what cost, and what specs? I'm remaining skeptical until I can see more of this device in action, but Microsoft definitely has my attention with this one. Video mapping is a cool technology, and the idea of a console utilizing it interactively in real time is an exciting one.
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