Microsoft’s research arm has garnered a lot of media attention this week thanks to demonstrations of its RoomAlive interactive gaming experience and a transparent smart cover for tablets. While both impressive in their own right, neither project is expected to show up as a consumer product anytime soon.

Microsoft's Xim, which launches today, is one of those rare research projects that actually end up in the hands of end-users.

Xim aims to reinvent how we share photos with friends and family. As you’ve no doubt experienced, most people simply huddle around a single phone to view pictures. Worse yet, someone hands you their phone and you end up scrolling too far in their camera roll and see something you wish you hadn’t.

Xim eliminates those concerns and the hassle of having to log into a social network or having a certain app installed to view shared photos. With Xim, a user can pull up to 50 photos from their camera roll, Dropbox, Facebook, Instagram or OneDrive that they wish to share then choose who to share with from their address book or by manually entering a phone number or e-mail address.

Once selected, the images are uploaded to a temporary cloud as a slideshow and a URL is sent to all recipients. Those on the receiving end can watch along as you navigate the slideshow without needing to install the app. If they do have the Xim app, however, they can participate by adding additional photos or even controlling the slideshow on their end. Xims are destructive in nature so they won't linger around in the cloud forever.

While it certainly seems like a novel idea, I’m not so sure how successful it’ll be. There’s already a wealth of apps and social networks for sharing photos and it seems unlikely that Xim will be able to replicate the experience that’s had when sharing photos with friends and family in person.

The Xim app is available for Android, iOS and Windows Phone free of charge starting today.