Virtual Reality without a Headset

These incredible animations on live buildings are created using Projection Mapping! Projection mapping is one of the coolest things that I have stumbled upon on the internet — and my twitter followers seem to have thought so as well!

So what is Projection Mapping? And how does it work?

Projection mapping, similar to video mapping and spatial augmented reality, is a projection technology used to turn objects, often irregularly shaped, into a display surface for video projection. These objects may be complex industrial landscapes, such as buildings, small indoor objects or theatrical stages. By using specialized software, a two- or three-dimensional object is spatially mapped on the virtual program which mimics the real environment it is to be projected on. The software can interact with a projector to fit any desired image onto the surface of that object. This technique is used by artists and advertisers alike who can add extra dimensions, optical illusions, and notions of movement onto previously static objects. The video is commonly combined with, or triggered by, audio to create an audio-visual narrative.

These incredible animations are created using visual effects from a projector!

Projection Mapping uses everyday video projectors, but instead of projecting on a flat screen (e.g. to display a PowerPoint), light is mapped onto any surface, turning common objects of any 3D shape into interactive displays. More formally, projection mapping is “the display of an image on a non-flat or non-white surface”.

Alternate names include the original academic term “spatial augmented reality” and “video mapping.” This can be used for advertising, live concerts, theater, gaming, computing, decoration and anything else you can think of.

Software for Projection Mapping

Question: So which projection mapping software is the best?

Answer: It depends on what you want to do with it…

I will focus on software that is < $1,000 as this is for a home solution. I think that projection mapping for use as a digital display or storefront is an incredible use of this fantastic technology. Here are some ways to do it at home!

  • Optoma Projection Mapper ($4.99) (iOS, Android, & Amazon)

This mapping software works through your iphone and allows you to load your own conent in. This solution is great if you have a powerful phone but can sometimes slow down because of mobile computing limitations

  • PocketVJ Version 3.x

The PocketVJ is a standalone open-source projection-mapping, presentation-playing, video presenter tool, and it keeps getting cooler (with updates). Made with Love by Marc-André Gasser in Berne, Switzerland.

Pros/Cons: The PocketVJ has a wide range of features and for that reason, the web browser based control panel that can feel cluttered if you’ve never used it before. Each icon in the control panel executes a bit of code on the raspberry pi. Sometimes it can take a moment before you see the player update; and if you’re not patient, you could cause some delays and headaches by switching parameters too quickly. Outside of that; once you know how to use this device, you can do a lot with it.

  • miniMAD by Madmapper ($180)

The miniMAD could handle some heavy projection mapping when it was first released and has been tested on multiple installs (link & link). And now it supports DMX playback for control of LED devices. The mad mapper team continues to update their products and take in user feedback. At $180, this box is a solid pick for almost any installation.

Pros/Cons: The miniMAD requires a full mad mapper license to handle the optimized export, so on top of the $180 you’ll also have to dish out another $435 for MadMapper.

  • More information on these solutions can be found here

As well here are some links to other cool uses for this technology!

Video Game Installation – Projection Mapping Central
2017 – while( ){ }; Brent Watanabe combined a custom computer application, acrylic paint, and video projection to…

Inside the Michigan Central Station – Projection Mapping Central
For Detroit Red Paper Heart designed the interior of the Michigan Central Station to chronicle the life and culture in…

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