Rumors about Microsoft's Xbox 720, which is the unofficial title believed to accompany the PC-maker's next-generation gaming console, have been circulating for quite some time now. Back in 2010, a document detailing the company's plans leaked, and now a recently-published patent originally filed back in 2011 reveals Microsoft's intentions to take video games out of the television screen and into players' immediate environment.
Microsoft was the first to commercialize motion-sensor gaming without a controller when it released its Kinect add-on in 2010, and now the company allegedly plans to create a fully immersive gaming environment. Schematics included in the patent filing, obtained by Patently Apple, depicts a display environment consisting of a typical leisure room found in a home. The room in the image includes a sofa, two chairs, a coffee table and a television system.
In the diagram, referred to in Patently Apple as FIG. 1, a user is playing a video game using an interactive computing system in the room described above. The gaming system, presumably the Xbox 720, outputs a primary image to the user's HDTV and projects peripheral images on surfaces in the gaming environment. This includes walls, furniture and other surfaces present in the room.
A tiny device referred to as "116" in the diagram is responsible for projecting these images. Judging by the Patently Apple's figure illustration, the device appears to be about the size of a webcam and would accompany a device similar to the Kinect sensor bar.
The scenario depicted shows a user playing a first person shooter video game. The player is focused on the primary images shown on the TV, and connected to what may be the Xbox 720 is the environmental display. This is configured to display peripheral images, as the diagram illustrates.
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This peripheral image is an extension of what players see on their television. Just as if players were immersed in a real-life scenario, he or she would use their peripheral image to view the projected images. In some instances, the peripheral image could appear to surround the user when projected by the environmental display. For example, a player may physically turn around to see an enemy approaching from behind.
In the documents, Microsoft went on to say that in certain situations, "the user may enjoy an immersive 3-D experience using suitable headgear, such as active shutter glasses configured to operate in synchronization with suitable alternate-frame image sequencing at primary display and environmental display."
In addition, the paperwork mentioned the use of suitable complimentary color glasses used to view suitable stereographic images displayed by the primary and environmental displays.
Some of this information appears to line up with an internal Microsoft document uncovered in June which dates back to 2010. The allegedly leaked paperwork described a next-generation Kinect system, but did not mention the concept of projecting images on to surfaces to create a full-scale environment. However, details found in the 56-page document did describe "Kinect Shades" as an augmented-reality eyewear add-on, allowing several players to experience the same three-dimensional image.
Referred to as Kinect Version 2 in the paperwork, the next-generation device rumored for the Xbox 720 would allow up to four players to participate at the same time, whether sitting or standing.
Although the fully immersive gameplay was not detailed in that document, there was one allusion that connects it to the newly discovered diagram:
"The game has broken out of the screen and is all around you," read the 2010-dated document.
A source confirmed to CVG that this document was in fact legitimate, although Microsoft has yet to make any official announcement. Since the hefty paperwork dates back to 2010, it's possible that the schematic published by Patently Apple was a later development.
Close to the time period in which the 56-page document was discovered, just as E3 2012 was in full swing, Microsoft's Yusuf Mehdi posted to the company's official blog. The Microsoft executive spoke vaguely about bring the next-generation Xbox 720 to the next level.
"Having recently joined the team, I have the benefit of a fresh perspective," Mehdi wrote. "And one of the things that struck me is the amount of opportunities we have ahead...We've got ideas for making all the entertainment you love more personal, interactive and social across the devices you love-and on the phenomenal Windows 8 devices that are to come."
Microsoft's Xbox 720 is rumored for a release date in 2013 and will be competing against other next-generation consoles such as Nintendo's Wii U and Sony's PlayStation 4, referred to as Orbis. It seems as if both Microsoft and Nintendo are attempting to innovate the way players interact with games on screen, as Nintendo will be releasing its GamePad tablet controller with the Wii U. Sony has been relatively quiet about its developments with the PlayStation 4, but recent rumors have indicated that the console will support 4K resolution.
Be sure to check out Patently Apple's full report to see the Xbox 720 schematics for yourself.