IllumiRoom Vs The Oculus Rift: Why Microsoft Has The Right Idea

Because my initial post was a bit too long to read, I'll get straight to the point.

On The Verge's report about the Oculus Rift, many users had a lot of negative things to say about Microsoft's IllumiRoom, some even going as far as to say that it was a pointless, useless device. Many users were of the opinion that the Oculus Rift was a better idea... I am here to challenge those views.

"Anyone who says IllumiRoom is pointless, or 'simply a projection' is missing the big picture and has very little imagination, no vision and no foresight." - A Buddhist monk

IllumiRoom isn't only the future of gaming, it is the future of entertainment! A bold statement, I know, but allow me explain further. First, I will clear up a misconception some people have about IllumiRoom, claiming "it is just a projected image in front of you". IllumiRoom doesn't just project an image in front of you, the image is projected nearly 360 degrees around you where it provides depth and a pseudo-3D image in the projected area.

Now that we have that out of the way, I will touch on the methodology both devices use to bring the VR experience to the user, and I will highlight some of the most crucial differences between the two devices. These differences pinpoint precisely why the Oculus Rift is fundamentally flawed. The Rift and IllumiRoom tackle VR in two very different ways; the former (Rift) using an enclosed method of projecting VR to the viewer (where they attempt to bring the user to the VR experience), while the latter (IllumiRoom) uses an expansive method (where an image is projected out into the room, attempting to bring the VR experience to the user) to attain the same experience. Both are good methods (the Rift being the more traditional approach of the two), and they both have their pros and cons. Microsoft's method however, is more practical and has a greater scope for advancement because it doesn't ignore a key factor that Oculus seems to ignore, and that is the social aspect of gaming. While the Rift is a good idea, it essentially pulls users away from the real world, and encloses them in an environment where they cannot interact with others around them in their real space. This is the fundamental flaw that will plague the Rift, because it completely ignores the social activity in gaming. Gaming is not entierly an individualistic thing, it's a social thing, where real people come together to share time, experiences and each other's company. The Rift takes away this aspect of gaming, where players and viewers will not be able to actively participate in the on-screen activities as they customarily do. For viewers to be able to share the VR experience with the Rift, a separate connection (wireless or cabled) from the headgear to the TV will be needed. And even with a connection established to the TV, the other users will not be able to experience the same level of immersion as the user wearing the headgear. In order to achieve the same level of immersion for all viewers, each person in the room will have to wear the Rift headgear, and they will all need to be connected, or synced. This creates another barrier between the user and the gaming experience that greatly hampers the social aspect of gaming. Personally, I think social interaction makes for a more fun experience, and even stimulates an environment for social bonding. For users to share the same VR experience or simply view the on-screen action while one user plays, they'd have to either purchase a cable to connect the device to the TV (if it's not wirelessly built in), or invest in more headgear. Essentially that equates to more money being spent and higher costs to achieve an equally immersive experience for all users. This is the greatest flaw in the Rift's design, and because it exists at a fundamental level it is not a problem that is easily tackled. In order for the Rift contribute to the social aspect of gaming, the concept has to be redesigned from the ground up. It's not all bad as the Rift excels in privacy and is reported to provide higher resolution images than IllumiRoom.

IllumiRoom on the other hand does not face these problems of expense and a non-existent, or lacklustre social experience. Users do not need to buy additional units or connection devices for all users in the room to enjoy the same immersive experience; only one device is needed to bring the entire VR experience to all viewers room. Most importantly, IllumiRoom doesn't require hardware that closes you off from the rest of the world, preserving the social aspect of gaming, and even strengthening it. This is a huge benefit that people seem to miss, or ignore. It is only when they get the Rift in their hands they will slowly begin to see the jarring issues I pointed out earlier. IllumiRoom is not without its flaws either, it's a perceivably lower-resolution device than the Rift and offers no amount of privacy. The privacy issue will be tackled by users independently, while the issue of resolution / detail will be tackled with technological advancements. Although the Oculus Rift will provide a higher quality of immersion from the beginning, the design limits the social experience; whereas Microsoft can enhance its projection quality as technology progresses without ever having to sacrifice the social aspect of gaming. Again, it is obvious that the Rift cannot address its most glaring problem unless the entire concept is redesigned. Microsoft is trying to bring the gaming world (or anything you view on TV) to you, while the Rift is trying to unapologetically pull you into the gaming world; a simulated reality.

Also, consider for a moment how immersive IllumiRoom can be with advanced holographic imagery, where we can have real 3D projections around us, and not 2D images projected in a 3D space. The Rift cannot, will not and will never be able do this. It is bricked, closed and limited in its design and application, while Redmond's design can be expanded to many, many possibilities. Rift, with its enclosed design, is a step in the wrong direction...arguably a step backward.

Lastly, I think IllumiRoom may encourage users to change the way they game, where gamers create entire rooms or spaces dedicated to gaming. Even today, many people still use their living rooms for gaming, but in the foreseeable future people will have separate rooms dedicated to gaming. In fact, IllumiRoom may change the common perception of what a 'living room' is supposed to be. Imagine an all white, or all black room; bland, boring with nothing in it, but a comfortable couch. Not so inspiring, is it? But with a simple voice command, you can bring that entire room to life...breathing art, scenery and beautiful design into that room, transforming it into a world of interactive expression / immersion. The Xbox can now have screen savers, with different sceneries and images, turning that room into anything from a dense jungle, to the white snowy Himalayas, to a desert, or metropolitan city area, to rooms of the greatest architectural structures, to a fantasy world where dinosaurs still exist...you get the idea. IllumiRoom brings a whole new meaning to what we call Live Wall Papers.

IllumiRoom is the future!

*Edited to condense post*