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Microsoft Wants to Build You a Holodeck

Video game designers are pushing away from their old best friend, the television

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Just think of what you could do with all this space. Photo: Adrian Black

Forty years ago, when video games were first brought into our homes and hooked up to our TVs, they sparked a revolution in the way we play. Since those early days, video gaming has blossomed into a multi-billion dollar industry that has eclipsed the profit of Hollywood movie making and has put a gaming console into 46% of American homes.

But now hardware makers are turning against their old best friend, the television. As reported by the BBC, Microsoft, which makes the XBox line of gaming consoles, has laid out in a patent the plans for a system that could  ’make the experience more realistic’.” Though TVs have been getting bigger and bigger (and will continue to do so), the technology’s rate of growth has apparently not been enough to match the game maker’s expectations. Microsoft’s idea is to paint the player’s walls with extra visuals, stretching well beyond the area of a TV screen.

Ideally, game makers would like to remove any barrier that prevents players from being drawn wholeheartedly into the worlds they’ve created. All-encompassing video gaming rooms have been built in the past, and they look really, really fun. They’ve also been prohibitively expensive. But Microsoft has had problems in the past when it has tried going big and taking over the whole room. People with small or medium sized rooms had a lot of trouble with the company’s Kinect system, which uses cameras to track players’ motion.

Sony, producer of the PlayStation consoles, is going the opposite route. The company is designing a virtual reality headset meant to replace the television altogether. This path is being followed across the industry, as designer after designer after designer attempts to do away with the strict ties to the TV.

This isn’t a trend limited to video gaming. Surveys have even shown people are increasingly “watching tv” on other devices like tablets, phones, or computers. Obviously television sets likely won’t go away all together, but they may be losing their crown as the reigning centerpiece of home entertainment.

More from Smithsonian.com:
James Cameron on the Future of Cinema
Predictions for Educational TV in the 1930s

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About Colin Schultz
Colin Schultz

Colin Schultz is a freelance science writer and editor based in Toronto, Canada. He blogs for Smart News and contributes to the American Geophysical Union. He has a B.Sc. in physical science and philosophy, and a M.A. in journalism.

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