Although projection mapping is a relatively new term, the first public example the technique can be traced back to the 1960’s when Disneyland opened their Haunted Mansion ride in 1969.

Since then the technology has evolved to new heights. Over the past decade, head-turning projection mapping has now become the go-to for every building opening, event or occasion.

In the past few years, we’ve seen new ways for the technique to be used. Applications in the military, the booming wearable tech industry and extensive prospects for a range of businesses in every sector offer new opportunities for harnessing its power.

We've picked our favourite examples of projection mapping and display technology, from a real life-invisibility invisibility cloak to interactive water slides.

 

The real-life invisibility cloak

Active, adaptive or optical camouflage usages rapidly changing light to conceal a person or vehicle from detection. The concept isn’t completely new, with early research into the technique of counter-illumination taking place during the Second World War.

 

Optical camouflage pushes the boundaries of what we can do with projectors. The technique could be so effective that it could enable someone to avoid detection by the human eye and even optical sensors when stationary.

The results are a chameleon-like ability for military personnel or vehicles such as tanks to blend into the background during warfare. The invisibility cloak has jumped from the pages of Harry Potter into reality.

Turn your arm into a tablet

Wearable tech has been taken to a new level by a Paris-based design agency. The Circlet bypasses the need for a smartwatch, projecting a user's smartphone screen directly onto their wrist.

 

If you’ve ever dropped your phone while fumbling it from your pocket or use your phone while on the move, this technology could be for you. While the project is still in development, the company have reached their crowdfunding goal, having raised over $600,000 to deliver the device.

The design for the waterproof, wearable smart technology will allow their customers to access their phone underwater, answer calls and texts completely hands-free and access maps for navigation without having to access their smartphone.

Touchscreen projector technology

Projector-based touch-screen technology turns any flat surface into a screen that you can not only interact with using your hands but can also understand real-world objects and create an augmented reality version of the item.

Imagine placing a copy of Alice in Wonderland on the table and being able to manipulate and move the characters and objects within the book. The technology can also project musical instruments, such as a piano, onto any flat surface that users can play.

The technology could be used by architects and city planners to create interactive walkthroughs to showcase how moving features could function. Or for teachers to create interactive ways of teaching to engage students through active learning.

While not necessarily cost-effective at present, the technology is groundbreaking, and it’s easy to see how it could fit into workplaces across a range of industries.


Headset-free augmented reality

For too long, bulky, wearable devices have been necessary when it comes to augmented reality (AR). However, a new combined camera and computer can now superimpose images over real-world objects. Negating the need for uncomfortable and awkward head-mounted displays.

The new system connects a video projector to cast images and animation onto surrounding objects, turning any surface you can think of into a screen. The new technique, called mapping, opens a world of possibilities.

There are some amazing examples of mapping, from Fabergé's Easter 360 degree mapped 3D installation storefront display for Harrods to this amazing light display on Battersea Power Station, the possibilities are endless. More practical applications include shop displays and travel information.

Interactive waterslides

When Coral Reed Waterpark in the United Kingdom invested £13.3 million in its redevelopment, they needed something that would set them apart from their competitors. 

As part of the work, they’ve installed 5 interactive slides. Time in the tubes can be customised with 360-degree projections that enhance the experience of each ride. From flashes of lightening to multicoloured displays, the projections create a thrilling encounter. 

At Twentebad in Hengelo (The Netherlands) they’ve taken it one step further. These interactive slides have bought innovative display and gamification together.

Swimmers can ‘play’ the slides by hitting illuminated markers when travelling down the slides at high speed, adding a whole new dimension to the possibilities of the waterslide!

Magic music video

Director Filip Sterckx demonstrates the creative capabilities of projectors in the mind-boggling music video for Willow’s music video, Sweater.

Everything here is shot in studio with three beamers projecting on a floor and two walls. While the methods are surprisingly low tech, the output is visually captivating.

The video sees singer Pieter-Jan Van Den Troost immersed in a virtual world with a retro video game feel. Watching him grope at walls that aren’t there, paddle through imaginary stairs and walk up down non-existent stairs is oddly captivating.

7D hologram

You’ll have heard of 3D animation and even 4D shows before, but 7D Holograms bring a whole new dynamic to the use of projectors on the cinema screen.

 

The reason that a 7D hologram has so many dimensions is that the hologram is captured from a large number of positions that surround the scene or subject of the hologram.

It’s like having a number of photographers surrounding a subject. A 7D hologram is like having a bunch of photographers surrounding a subject.

The position of each photographer is described in 3D. The angle each photographer is pointing the camera is described in 2D. Each camera records light properties and time. The resulting parameters are: 3D position + 2D angle + time + light properties = 7D.

 

Conclusion

The evolution of display technologies has elevated its application beyond simple pretty projections for use at events. Now, we are seeing projection used in camouflage, wearable technology and as part of multi-dimensional mind-blowing experiences.

In the future we could see desktop projectors providing clients with miniature real-life mock-ups of their 3D projection mapping projects, displays that adapt to an audience’s actions or new applications for projecting onto the human body. The possibilities, it seems, are endless.