Has Microsoft discovered the future of gaming?

It’s something all gamers dream about, but outside of a few nauseating headsets and a giant hamster-ball designed by the military, has mostly eluded developers: 3D immersive gaming. However, that once wishful notion deemed too intangible for current technology, may be coming closer to reality, and sooner than we think.

Microsoft has filed a patent with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for “an interactive computing system configured to provide an immersive display experience.” Meaning the future of gaming will literally leap off our televisions and onto the four surrounding walls making your living room an entirely interactive environment utilizing just (judging by patent designs below) a version of the Kinect and a holodeck – yes, a holodeck.

How does it work? Microsoft summarizes the patent with the following: “An immersive display environment is provided to a human user by projecting a peripheral image onto environmental surfaces around the user. The peripheral images serve as an extension to a primary image displayed on a primary display.

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U.S. Patent and Trademark Office/Microsoft

So don’t go throwing away that 60” LED you bought on Black Friday. However, your attention will no longer be limited to what’s occurring in front of you. Imagine being able to toss a grenade over your shoulder in the next installments of Battlefield and Call of Duty. Or playing as Snake, laying prone in tall grass as you watch guards walk past you from your left and right. The possibilities could be endless.

Now for many, that may leave questions as to the accuracy of interaction, the proper detection of your movements, and how the system will know if there’s a giant futon blocking the back corner of your room.

Essentially, the holodeck would be placed on top of your television and then projects images on the surrounding walls, but what’s interesting is that the patent designs clearly indicate that it will compensate for obstructions in your living room like furniture and most importantly, yourself. So clearing out couches, coffee tables, siblings, and loved ones won’t be necessary, although it might not be a bad idea to avoid any incidental destruction from enthusiastic flailing of limbs.

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U.S. Patent and Trademark Office/Microsoft

The lengthy patent submission says the system would include: an “interactive computing system” (i.e. a game console), an “environmental display device” or holodeck (for projecting the images on the walls around you), a “depth camera” and a “user tracking device” likely a more advanced Kinect, seen perched atop the television. The one question I have will be if screens, much like the ones used for projectors, are necessary to have it fully functioning. So far it doesn’t seem like it, but I’d imagine heavily textured or that one deep-red colored accent wall may be less than desirable.

It’s also important to note that the patent does describe 3D-headgear that may or may not be used with the system. Somewhat of a bummer if it is included, but it’s not the end of the world.

So when should we expect it to hit store shelves? I’d discourage anyone from camping out at Best Buy as the wait could be a long one. There’s no timetable set for a release (there likely isn’t even a prototype), and I’d go as far to say that it’s even unlikely we’ll see it with the coming next-gen console. Something to also consider is that Microsoft, like Nintendo and Sony, file patents regularly with the majority of them never coming to fruition so there’s the possibility this project gets scrapped.

Fingers crossed I’m wrong and we’re all one step closer to living out our dream.

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