Don’t think of the Xbox 720 as a graphically advanced piece of consumer video game technology. Don’t think of it as a vessel for a new and improved version of Kinect and Xbox Live. In fact, don’t even bother thinking of it as the cable TV and connected entertainment set top box, Microsoft’s definitive gambit to take control of living room media. It will be all of those things, rest assured, but the Durango may also introduce some crazy immersion technology that goes well beyond Kinect’s motion sensing.
On Sunday Patently Apple detailed a Microsoft patent just recently published by the US Trademark and Patent Office that describes technology that would transform your entire living room into a game environment. The patent reads: “An immersive display environment is provided to a human user by projecting a peripheral image onto environmental surfaces around the user. The peripheral images serve as an extension to a primary image displayed on a primary display.”
Put another way: You’re playing a motion-controlled Gears of War. If you scan ahead for enemies, they might be taking cover behind broken walls not just on your TV but maybe to the right on your walls. You might be able to see an attack from the air on your ceiling. A locust soldier could sneak up behind you and you could literally turn around to face them.
What is the tech? The Xbox itself is outputting both the primary image on your television and the secondary images on your walls. It’s not necessarily 3D tech either. The figures shown in the patent detail 2D displays, though the tech would be compatible with 3D TVs and could be augmented with “suitable headgear.” In addition to a new version of Kinect is a depth camera that generates the depth information needed for the environment meaning it knows where everything in the room is while the Kinect focuses on where you are. The depth camera might also be built with a three-dimensional scanner that will collect any non-visible light (infrared, etc.) given off by monitors or projectors.
Creating a more immersive video game environment is clearly a priority for Microsoft with the Xbox 720 and the overall future of the Xbox brand. Back in March, another Microsoft patent was made public for “Projector Eyewear for Xbox and Beyond.” These goggles would work in place of a television for the Xbox, projecting a virtual screen in front of the user. It’s not quite the same as turning your living room into the game, but it’s one more example of how Microsoft’s engineers envision the future of games.