Microsoft's RoomAlive turns your room into a Holodeck

The latest evolution of what was originally IllumiRoom has completely removed the screen from the equation, projection mapping games across an entire room.

Michelle Starr Science editor
Michelle Starr is CNET's science editor, and she hopes to get you as enthralled with the wonders of the universe as she is. When she's not daydreaming about flying through space, she's daydreaming about bats.
Michelle Starr
2 min read


Microsoft's IllumiRoom, originally unveiled at CES 2013, caught our attention. Although only in the proof-of-concept stages, it looked to expand gaming beyond the screen, projection-mapping animated environments onto the walls beyond using Kinect sensors for a more immersive experience.

We were disappointed to learn that IllumiRoom was only a research project, and not to be integrated into the Xbox One -- but Microsoft never actually shelved it entirely. Now, the company has launched a new demo showcasing where it has taken the technology: a platform it is calling RoomAlive.

"RoomAlive is a proof-of-concept prototype that transforms any room into an immersive, augmented, magical entertainment experience," the team explains on the Microsoft Research website. "RoomAlive presents a unified, scalable approach for interactive projection mapping that dynamically adapts content to any room. Users can touch, shoot, stomp, dodge and steer projected content that seamlessly co-exists with their existing physical environment."

What this means is that the basic idea behind IllumiRoom -- using Kinect sensors and projectors to map environments onto a room -- has been taken to the next level. It is no longer merely an extension of what you see on the screen, but a system that turns your entire room into a projection-mapped, augmented reality experience.

RomAlive's projection-mapping system was developed with the assistance of Brett Jones and Rajinder Sodhi at Projection Mapping Central. At its core is the projector depth-camera unit, known as a procam, which consist of a wide field of view projector, a Kinect sensor and a computer. The Kinect maps the room and tracks what's in it, while the projector is used for the display. With six procam units, every square inch of a room can be projection mapped.


"For most projection mapping pieces, content must be painstakingly created for the particular object to be projected on. The artist must take into account the object shape and colour, along with the projector location, field of view etc," Jones and Sodhi explained.

"RoomAlive enables game designers to create projection mapped games independent of the particular room that the content is displayed in. All the content in RoomAlive is driven in real-time and dynamically adapts to the exact colour and geometry of the user's living room. For instance, RoomAlive can automatically detect the floors and walls of the room."

Each of the six procam units is auto-calibrating and self-localising, which means all the user has to do is install the unit, and all six work together to create a unified model of the room. The six Kinect sensors also work together to track the user's head position in the room, which lets the software correct the perspective of the imagery so that it appears 3D to the user wherever they are in the room.

Like IllumiRoom, RoomAlive is, at this point, only a proof-of-concept, and Microsoft has not revealed its future plans for the system -- whether it be releasing it commercially or going onto develop it into something even cooler still.