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How IllumiRoom could win the next gen war for Xbox 720

Microsoft's tech is a genuine break from the norm

The release of Xbox IllumiRoom - whether built into the Xbox 720 or not - will mark the first time in two or three years that I give serious thought to the organisation of my bedroom. It's a chaotic place, my bedroom, and the melding of Kinect gestural interaction and projected 3D visuals suggested by Microsoft's patent is thus a fearful prospect.

That moderately expensive gaming laptop wedged onto my desk by the plasma TV, for instance - what if I'm playing Ryse, and an objectionable Roman's face materialises in front of it, and I punch my beloved Medion Razor to kingdom come? What if I mistake the collection of beer bottles by the chair for a prone Locust? I'm liable to curb-stomp my way to A&E.

The above example assumes, of course, that IllumiRoom works as advertised. There's room for a raised eyebrow on this front, given the illustrious example of Kinect. I'm a big fan of the peripheral, as it happens - I genuinely and without the slightest hint of credibility-restoring doubt believe that Fable: The Journey and Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor are among this generation's more interesting, worthwhile experiences. You can chisel that into my gravestone, detractors.

But I have to admit it hasn't delivered all that we dreamed of back in the giddy, halcyon days of 2010. The device's considerable promise has yet to be capitalised upon, thanks to a combination of latency, "core" apathy for the so-called "casualification" of Xbox, and the bloody-mindedness with which some developers port over concepts rather than conceiving afresh with motion control in mind.

It's possible IllumiRoom will meet a similar fate. It faces many of the same implementation problems, for a start - most people's living rooms are worlds away from the sanitised blank canvases you see in Microsoft promotional reels. But despite these potential drawbacks, the device's mere existence gives the next generation Xbox a dramatic advantage over the safer concepts touted by Sony and, rather oddly, Nintendo.

You see, in console circles at least, IllumiRoom is a 110 per cent proof, platinum-certified New Thing - and providing they're appropriately marketed and don't have any obvious major downsides (see: the probably over-inflated 3DS eyestrain "phenomenon"), New Things have a habit of doing the business. Again, look at Kinect. Look at the millions of additional Xbox 360 consoles it sold.

IllumiRoom isn't a refinement, or a consolidation of existing practices, like Wii U. It's not an intriguing but misguided attempt to cash in on the ubiquity of tablets and touchscreens, or a posher PlayStation that outputs at a higher resolution, and may or may not include a pre-owned games lockout. IllumiRoom carries the conversation forward, for good or for ill. Assuming it is, in fact, a feature of the next generation Xbox, it sets the device apart at a glance from both competitors and predecessors.

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Simplistic reasoning? You bet. Simple sells. In today's woeful economic climate, and with PC and mobile beginning to bite serious chunks out of console revenues, the new Xbox can't amount merely to a bundle of almost-cutting-edge PC parts coated in fancy new production values. The distinction needs to be self-evident and qualitative, not a question of this processor over that, and IllumiRoom is like nothing I've ever seen before.

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