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Virtual Reality via 3D Projection Mapping

January 24th, 2017 | Posted by pftq in Ideas | #
Rather than wear VR/AR headsets, it's more interesting to me to try to bring VR literally into the real world using 3D projection mapping.  No one has to wear any fancy goggles; anyone walking by can see exactly what you see and step into the same world you're in.  Imagine walking by your favorite supermarket one day to find that it's been transformed into massive crater in the ground.  Forget the supermarket.  Imagine if the giant castle before you started to collapse as a monster emerged from within.  Best of all, everyone around you can see it and hear it with you.  Contrast this with VR or AR currently where everyone else around you only sees you running around with a headset, playing more or less with an imaginary friend world.

No, 3D projection mapping is not just a big movie screen.  Below is an example of 3D projection done literally on a castle to make it appear like it is moving, crumbling, transforming... Yes, the example I used previously was actually already real, not fiction:
3D Projection Mapping at Lux del Greco 2014

The artist modifies the footage they want to project to actually account for the real live object they want to project on.  You can make the object you're projecting on shift or even disappear by counteracting the light reflected off the object itself.

The object you're projecting on can even be moving, can even be a person.  Below shows it close-up tracking and transforming a person's face:
Omote / Real-time Face Tracking and Projection Mapping

Another done by Bot & Dolly shows just how accurate and seamless the projection can be in an open environment with live people and moving objects:
Bot & Dolly's Box

Similar to above, this choreographed stage performance by Sila Sveta also shows how much projection can do in a live setting to literally look like magic:
Sila Sveta's 7 Questions to Yourself

And Light Harvest's demonstration on Manhattan Bridge is a good example of people being immersed and surrounded by the projection:
Light Harvest's Immersive Surfaces - As Above, So Below

The main thing right now is this is all scripted.  What if we took it to the next level by automating the mapping portion? Make it real-time, interact-able, a game instead of a movie. You'd need additional sensors/cameras to tell the device what it's projecting on, but we already have this kind of technology being built for virtual and augmented reality.  The only thing is they're using it to feed information back to your headset.  Imagine if we fed it into something that can then do projection mapping back onto the object - to hide it, transform it, change it to whatever we want.  In basic application, you'd have the walls around you transforming into whatever world you want, but since you can project onto live objects as well, you can have both yourself and everything around you change or transform also.

Willow's music video gets pretty close to the idea but it's still scripted and more for watching than actual immersion (games, worlds).  Imagine it with more budget, actual tracking technology, etc.
Willow's Sweater Music Video

The limitation right now of course is that you need both a surface and a somewhat evenly lit (or preferably dark) environment, but a lot of the VR tech is starting to require dedicated room space anyway, especially with those allowing you to walk around (at risk of bumping into something in the real world).  Some even require props for guns, swords.  You might as well turn the room itself into your virtual world through a handful of well placed projectors and not have the headset.  It becomes the closest thing to holograms with the exception that you always need some surface or object to project on, but VR/AR headset technology itself is always improving - why wouldn't projection technology improve as well if we put more attention on it? It makes more sense to me that holograms arise from something projecting light into the real world than something shining into your eyes that only you can see.

It would be fun to one day even extend this to searchlights.  Imagine if one night the stars you are staring at turn out to be a projection, and the entire sky transforms before your very eyes.
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