At CES 2013 Microsoft showed off a new technology called IllumiRoom, which used a Kinect for Windows camera and a projector to blur the lines between on-screen content and the environment we live in allowing users to combine the virtual and physical worlds. For example, the system could change the appearance of the room, induce apparent motion, extend the field of view, and enable entirely new game experiences.
The system uses the appearance and the geometry of the room (captured by Kinect) to adapt the projected visuals in real-time without any need to custom pre-process the graphics.
The technology however never turned into a real product, but some of the engineers who worked on it clearly never gave up on the idea. Lightform co-founders Brett Jones and Raj Sodhi used to work at Microsoft on the technology, and now with partners from across the industry have created Lightform, a device which plugs into your existing projector and which then let’s shape the light to match the environment and objects in the room.
Their box contains high-resolution camera and processor and connects to the camera via HDMI. By projecting a special pattern on the surfaces of the room briefly the device is able to map all the orientations of the surface, and eventually what each individual object is.
The device could, for example, find the Christmas tree in the room and display festive patterns on its surface.
After much delay, the device has now finally hit the market. Lightform is now taking orders for the LMF-1, which connects to a projector, scans a room and then makes the magic happen. Costing only $699, the device is ideal to create mesmerizing digital signage and projected augmented reality experiences ideal for events, weddings, conferences and more that everyone can see, even without a headset. The company also plans to pursue gaming support in the future.
“Fundamentally it’s an experience where you have to deal with a headset and you have to put on the strap and learn how to clip it,” Jones said. “And then you see the magic. And what we like about projected AR is first you see the magic and then eventually you figure it out that there’s a projector.”
Besides the stand-alone device customers can also purchase a starter kit that also includes a 1080p projector, tripod and more for $1,499. First units will be available this summer, with wide release coming in November 2018.
See the device in action below.
Read more about the technology at Lightform.com here.