Almost five years ago, Microsoft showed off an eye-catching prototype of an Xbox feature that projected games beyond the monitor and onto the walls of the surrounding room. That piece of technology, dubbed IllumiRoom, never came to be under Xbox, but now some of the researchers who worked on it are taking things further with a new augmented reality projection device.
The company, Lightform, is now taking orders for its LMF-1, a $699 device that looks a bit like the old Microsoft Kinect and clips onto almost any projector. It scans a room and sends the data to desktop software called Lightform Creator that lets users build specific augmented reality experiences that fit the contours of the space.
In addition to the device, aspiring users can get a starter kit that also includes a 1080p projector, tripod and more for $1,499. The device will be released widely in November, with the first units debuting this summer for early adopters and key customers. The company, which has raised close to $8 million to build the device, has already completed production of approximately 200 units, CEO Brett Jones told GeekWire in an interview.
Microsoft decided to go a different route in its augmented reality pursuits, focusing on headsets over projectors. In the long-run, when the technology is better, Jones sees wearable devices as a great way to distribute VR and AR experiences, but right now it’s still too clunky.
“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.”
The company has spent the last two years developing the device. In the long-run, the 20-person company hopes to expand out to more computing applications such as gaming, fulfilling the original promise of IllumiRoom for Xbox.
At the outset, Jones envisions a few main types of outlets for the project. First is signage, such as a digital menu transmitted onto the wall. Another is events — weddings, corporate gatherings, conferences. And then there’s using the technology to push the boundaries of design, such as creating sculptures and paintings that come to life.