Microsoft's IllumiRoom brings augmented reality to the living room, but is 'five or ten years' away

What is IllumiRoom? First debuted at CES this year, it's a fascinating experiment from Microsoft that combines a Kinect camera and projector to "blur the lines between on-screen content and the environment we live in." There are a number of applications for the technology, but its integration with gaming proves to be the most exciting. For example, you could have imagery projected around the room, expanding the game beyond the boundaries of your television. You can even project weather effects in the room, to add an extra layer of immersion while playing a game.

Microsoft says that the tech would be possible on "a next-generation gaming console," which makes it seem likely to arrive on the next Xbox. However, Microsoft continuously repeats that "it's purely a research project."

In an interview with The Verge, Microsoft Research's Hrvoje Benko said that the mention of next-gen consoles and IllumiRoom are not an "explicit reference" to the Xbox, but rather a look "five or ten years" down the road.

Benko does admit that the Xbox and Kinect teams have been working closely with IllumiRoom, saying "there's a dialogue going on continuously there." However, there are a number of issues that the team must figure out. Primarily, the team needs game developers to work with the device. "That's something we've only scratched the surface of," Microsoft Reserach's Brett Jones notes. Although the company has performed "informal user studies," the company has not yet talked to external developers about using the tech.