The editors of Projection Mapping Central have been working on something secret for some time now. We’re excited to give you a sneak peek of how we plan to make projection mapping easier and more enjoyable for everyone.
Lightform is the first computer made for projection mapping. By connecting Lightform to any projector, you can quickly scan complex scenes and map video to any object.
The device has a camera and uses computer vision to 3D scan any scene, then wirelessly transmits the data to our desktop app. The app uses this data to automatically generate effects and filters, so you can quickly create amazing projection mapping shows.
Lightform also periodically scans your scene for changes, and automatically fine-tunes alignment when things move. This makes it possible to install projection installations quickly, easily, and most importantly; permanently.
The Future of Augmented Reality
We believe that virtual reality is going to be huge, and that augmented reality isn’t far behind. AR is so exciting because it allows us to get out of our living rooms and into the real world, but AR headsets currently have a lot of downsides. They only work for one person at a time, they take minutes to adjust per person, they run out of battery, they strain your neck, and worst of all, they can give you pink eye.
If you are reading this blog, you’ve probably heard of a lesser known AR technology called projection mapping, or using everyday projectors to turn objects into screens. In fact, projection mapping was originally called “Spatial Augmented Reality” in research, and it involves the same fundamental problem: aligning virtual pixels with real world objects using computer vision.
The editors of PMC have always believed in projected AR as an exciting mode of human-computer interaction. We dedicated much of our PhD research to it, in fact. The problem right now, is that projection mapping is difficult and expensive. It’s usually found in big budget productions like product launches, sporting events, and theater performances; and generally requires a team of experienced artists and technicians to make it happen.
Projection Mapping Made Easy
Now, we’re applying our experience to Lightform, which uses advanced computer vision to eliminate complexity in the projection mapping process. We want to democratize the medium so it can be used anywhere across film, art, education, cultural exhibits, events, signage, home entertainment, weddings, seasonal decor, theater, dance, and more.
We believe projected light can be more interesting than a flat screen because it can be overlaid on the environment. This gives everyone the opportunity to seamlessly blend digital content with existing materials and structures. We frequently hear from architects, interior designers, and business owners who see projection mapping as an interesting alternative to TV screens, but don’t know where to start.
Projectors used to be expensive, bulky, and required frequent bulb replacements. New LED and laser projectors are brighter, smaller, quieter, and can operate many years maintenance free. This makes projection an increasingly viable alternative to traditional screens for permanent digital art, signage, and ambient display applications. While advanced, these projectors are still “dumb” – they don’t know what they are projecting on.
Projection mapping currently involves a complicated workflow with multiple pieces of advanced software. Each step – from initial scanning, to 3D animation, to on-site calibration – requires a different artist or technician (usually teams of them).
Things in the real world tend to move, and even slight shifts in set or projector alignment can noticeably ruin the effect of mapping. It currently requires tedious clicking around to re-align content– one reason why you typically don’t see projection mapping outside of temporary events.
Lightform offers the first end-to-end workflow for projection mapping, making it possible for a single user to 3D scan, create content, and deploy an installation in one sitting. The workflow benefits experienced designers and novices alike. By leveraging computer vision, we automate tedious steps while assisting in the more fun process of content creation. We use 3D info to drive AI-generated effects and real-time filters which users can quickly integrate into their projects. The experience is designed around one explicit goal: quickly turning 3D scans of the real world into compelling motion content.
Lightform utilizes the latest computer vision techniques to automate the alignment process, letting you focus more on the experience and less on the technical execution. We believe that when paired with a long life, low maintenance LED or laser projector, Lightform will finally make permanent projection mapped installations possible.
We see projected AR becoming an integral part of architecture and interiors. As projectors rapidly shrink in size and increase in brightness, they will eventually become as ubiquitous as light fixtures. We foresee a confluence of lighting and display technologies, where small fixtures are simultaneously capable of illumination and high-resolution information display. This projection-as-lighting technology will enable new forms of digital art, signage, decor, and interactive displays.
We are excited to share more about Lightform in the coming months, but in the meantime, you can get early access to the beta at lightform.com We are partnering with select members of the projection mapping community to make some amazing new experiences before launch. We’re giving beta invites and $200 off to the top 50 referrers who share Lightform with friends. Head to lightform.com and sign up to get more details.
We can’t wait to see what the PMC community creates with Lightform. Happy mapping!
P.S. Projection Mapping Central will continue to feature work from artists all over the world, made with all sorts of software and hardware. We’re making sure Lightform plays nice with others (e.g. Syphon, Spout, and additional plugins). PMC will continue to cover all things projection mapping, and will feature the best projects made with any software. If you’d like to write for PMC, or you’d like to share your work, email us at [email protected]