Digital Projections Can Now Stick To Your Clothes, Even When You Move

Making augmented reality more functional and fashionable.

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Oct 19 2016, 11:15pm

Image: Ishikawa Watanabe Laboratory/Prosthetic Knowledge

Usually, if you project an image onto a physical object with light, the projected image will get distorted anytime the underlying object moves. However, a new technique called "dynamic image projection" allows a projected image to move in time with an object underneath, making it appear as though it were part of that object.

This new technology comes from Ishikawa Watanabe Laboratory at the University of Tokyo, and was recently featured on the excellent blog Prosthetic Knowledge. As seen in a demo video, dynamic projection mapping can accurately project images onto loose, moving, or dynamic surfaces, such as t-shirts or flexible posters. The projection mapping can happen at 1000 frames per second, with the help of high speed vision and projection technology, according to this video explainer. At 1,000 frames per second, "DynaFlash," the high speed projector, can project eight-bit images with only a three millisecond delay.

A proposed marker is drawn onto the target with infrared ink, invisible to the human eye, which allows for "robust and high speed non-rigid surface tracking, even in the presence of occlusions." The high speed non-rigid surface tracking can also be performed at 1,000 frames per second. Since the sensing and projection happen so quickly, any misalignment between the "dynamically-deforming target and the projected images" is undetectable to the human eye.

Among its many potential applications, dynamic projection mapping can open frontiers in fashion. By projecting images onto clothes, apparel businesses can experiment with interactive clothing design. The marker recognition technology could allow different images to be projected onto multiple targets.

Dynamic projection mapping could also improve augmented reality, making it more responsive and useful, which could help further with its adoption.

"For Augmented Reality to be experienced without discomfort, geometrical consistency between the real world and the virtual information is essential, meaning that images should be projected without misalignment on the target objects," reads the Ishikawa Watanabe Laboratory website. A significant delay between measuring the objects and projecting the images will cause a large degree of misalignment between the projections upon the dynamic objects.

The lab introduced a system called Lumipen to solve the issue of delays between time and geometric projections on dynamic objects. The system is comprised of a projector and a high speed optical axis controller with high speed vision and mirrors. Lumipen can project fixed images on dynamic objects such as bouncing balls, according to the Lab. To integrate this with dynamic projection mapping, the lab introduced a retroreflective background to the Lumipen system, so that the object appears darker than the background during projection, making it more distinguishable to the high speed camera.

These technologies can help with movies, lighting, visualizations, and as mentioned, fashion. And already, augmented reality has been applied to Pokemon Go, making objects on which the Pokemon jump move with them. For now, even sitting back and watching the dynamic projection mapping can be mesmerizing.