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Microsoft RoomAlive Turns Living Room Into Video Game

You probably play video games in your living room, but what if your living room was the game? That's the idea behind Microsoft Research's RoomAlive: a new experiment that uses projectors and Kinect sensors to turn any room in your home into an interactive video-game level.

Microsoft recently released a RoomAlive proof-of-concept video, which shows players shooting creatures and dodging obstacles within a medium-sized living room. The RoomAlive prototype uses a series of projector-depth "pro-cam" units, which combine projector technology for switching up the players environment with Kinect-like motion control for tracking the player's actions.

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Microsoft showed off several tech demos for its new system, including a whack-a-mole game in which users could smack creepily animated moles off of their walls or shoot at them with a gun controller. The "Robot Attack" demo plays like a conventional third-person shooter, except the action takes place on your walls and floor instead of on your television.

One of the coolest demos on display in the video is "Traps," which challenges players to avoid virtual obstacles projected onto the wall. If a player sets off a trap, gallons of virtual blood spread across the play area as a grim notification that the player failed.

If you're not in the mood for shooting or sneaking, RoomAlive can also simply switch up how your living room looks. Microsoft's new technology is able to procedurally generate environments, meaning you can project a waterfall onto your wall and a fish pond (or, if you're a mean roommate, virtual insects) onto your floor.

According to Microsoft, these special projectors will calibrate automatically, allowing users to easily set themselves up for some augmented-reality action. In addition to creating a 3D model of a real-life room for use with gaming engines, RoomAlive cameras can identify vertical, horizontal and floor surfaces in order to create as immersive an environment as possible.

Microsoft didn't say when to expect a consumer version of RoomAlive, nor did it announce whether the technology is built for Xbox One, PC or both. Regardless, the RoomAlive tech demos display some exciting potential, and, as long as the tech is mildly affordable, could have a big impact on the way we game in the living room.

Mike Andronico is an Associate Editor at Tom's Guide. When he's not writing about games, PCs and iOS, you can usually catch him playing Street Fighter. Follow Mike @MikeAndronico. Follow us @TomsGuide, on Facebook and on Google+