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July 9, 2019

Stuff I want to try: Projection mapping

Now that my kids are getting a bit older, I find myself with some spare time a couple of evenings a week. Oh, joy. When this happens, my mind jumps to the next creative/tech endeavor that I want to try. Something that I’ve been curious about is projection mapping.

I read yesterday that the original academic term was “spatial augmented reality”–which sounds even better. The product that got me interested in it is Lightform, a fantastic design tool for projected AR.

Giving eyes to a projector

The idea behind Ligthform is that their device, the LF1, can be mounted on top of any projector. During a “calibration” sequence, the projector sends a pattern over the physical scene to be augmented that the LF1 reads to generate a Depth Estimate Map. The map is sent over to the companion piece of software, Ligthform creator, that enables creators to then drop textures and animations on top of the scene’s volumes.

The result is mind blowing:

With a price tag of US $999, the first batch is already sold out and Lightform is inviting people to join the waiting list.

Many options–hardware and software

As dreamy as it is, I’m not ready to invest in this kind of equipment but there are other more affordable depth sensing cameras (what the LF1 is, in essence) alternatives. Intel’s RealSense series, ZED by Stereolab (not that Stereolab), etc.

ZED, a long oblong rectangle with two eye-like cameras close to each end.

ZED by Stereolab

In terms of software, Projection-mapping.org (a site dedicated to projection mapping curated by Lightform) offers a nice list of software options grouped by OS. I was glad to see that there is quite a lot available for Linux.

It’s all connected

It’s funny to see how the things I’m interested in are all connected. A couple of years ago, I got a TurtleBot3 and was getting into SLAM via the embarked LiDAR. I was learning Python with an eye towards Computer Vision (pun intended).

Now I’m curious about getting a depth sensing camera to do some projection mapping, something that I could potentially link to creative coding in Processing (it can be done).

And of course, I’m learning A-Frame and soon Blender. What an incredible time to be interested in creative technology.