Microsoft Patents Immersive Display

A patent for an "immersive display experience" filed by Microsoft in 2011 has been published by the US Patent Office. The patent describes a video game system with a connected "environmental display" that projects an image that "appears to surround the user".

(Microsoft Immersive Display )

Such a projector wouldn't replace the central TV display used in current consoles, but it would provide a "peripheral image" that would "serve as an extension" of that primary display. The purpose, of course, is to extend the gaming environment outside of the TV screen, so a player could, for instance, "turn around and observe an enemy sneaking up from behind."

The display device as described is integrated tightly with a depth-sensing camera system (read: Kinect) that could even be housed in the same casing as the environmental projector, according to the application. This device could be a standard two-camera, structured-light-sensing system like the current Kinect, or a more sophisticated model that could include "multiple image capture devices" to "stitch a panoramic image from a plurality of captured images" pointed in all directions around the room.

Regardless of the form, the depth-sensing camera described in the patent application aids the environmental projector by sensing the layout and topography of the room. This allows the projector to provide color and distortion correction, so the projected images look correct even when cast against different walls and pieces of furniture.

SF fans recall several predecessors to the idea of a Star Trek: The Next Generation "holodeck" as presented in that show's 1987 pilot episode. Read about the Veldt from Ray Bradbury's 1951 novel The Illustrated Man and the dimensino from the 1961 novel Time is the Simplest Thing, by Clifford Simak.

The closest prediction to this patent (and to first-person-shooter games in general) is probably the virtual "rifle range" from Simak's award-winning 1963 Way Station. In the novel, Enoch Wallace was a man with a rural upbringing who fought in the Civil War. When he was approached by aliens about running a way station in the galactic chain, he was asked if he would like some sort of entertainment center built into the station.

The basement was huge... carved deep into the rock that folded up to underlie the ridge...

Finally the gallery widened into an oval room and the walls here were padded with a thick gray substance that would entrap a bullet and prevent a ricochet.

Enoch walked over to a panel ... and thumbed a tumbler, then stepped quickly out into the center of the room... He stood on a little hillock and in front of him the land sloped down to a sluggish river bordered by a width of marsh.
(Read more about the virtual rifle range)

From Microsoft immersive display patent via Arstechnica.

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