Google isn't the only one working on futuristic ways to experience the web. A year ago, Microsoft revealed the Illumiroom concept, a projection system that uses Kinect to blur the virtual and physical world by extending content on a room's walls. The project never made it out of the prototype stage due to expensive costs, but we now know Microsoft hasn't scrapped it.
In fact, new details have emerged showing how Illumiroom's technology can be used to present web content in new immersive "web rooms." The premise of Microsoft's SurroundWeb 3D browser is still the same: there is a main display (HDTV) and additional information spills off onto its surround walls using projectors with sophisticated room rendering, object detection and natural user interfaces.
The research paper highlights four main ways SurroundWeb can be used to augment the main screen. The first is a car racing show shown on the HDTV with additional info from Wikipedia and racing results projected onto the walls (top pic).
The second example is a "virtual window" that shows what it's like in remote locations.
The third example outlined is a way to see high-resolution maps without the limitations of a small screen that requires constant zooming. And a fourth example shows how instant message profiles can pop up above a person's email inbox.
According to the research paper, the technology behind the magical "web rooms" is pretty high-tech:
"After a one-time setup procedure that scans a room for projectable surfaces in about a minute, our prototype can render immersive multi-display web rooms at greater than 30 frames per second with up to 25 screens and up to 1440 x 720 display."
As with any kind of camera that watches you in your home, there are privacy concerns. Worried about the camera scanning your room and relaying that info, to say, advertisers? Don't be. Microsoft Research says privacy is very important, and the SurroundWeb experience has built-in safety measures that deliberately prevent the camera system from sending off info on whether you prefer Coke or Pepsi.
So far, SurroundWeb sounds pretty fantastic. And why wouldn't it be when it's based on the Illumiroom concept? But don't get too excited, though. Like Illumiroom, Microsoft's SurroundWeb is a prototype proof-of-concept. In other words, it's just a futuristic tease. It could be many years before we ever see this kind of tech in our homes.