This Dynamic Projector Works on Flimsy Materials

Ishikawa Watanabe Laboratory

A video from the University of Tokyo’s Ishikawa Watanabe Laboratory, published on Wednesday, shows a projection system that can adapt to the movements of flimsy materials like t-shirts and sheets of paper. This tech could help create augmented reality (AR) experiences that don’t require people to wear cumbersome headsets or use their smartphones.

The video shows off two new technologies: One that can show an 8-bit image at 1,000 frames per second (FPS) with a 3 millisecond delay, and another that can track a non-rigid surface at 1,000 FPS. Together, the systems enable dynamic projections that respond to movement of their target surface so quickly, the human eye doesn’t even register the delay, which can allow for new uses for projecting images onto soft objects.

Ishikawa Watanabe Laboratory’s researchers explain on their website that this can help AR projects. “For [AR] to be experienced without discomfort, geometrical consistency between the real world and the virtual information is essential,” they write, “Meaning that images should be projected without misalignment on the target objects.”

Interest in AR has grown in recent months as developers try to emulate the success of the form’s breakout hit, Pokémon Go. These games work on a smartphone, but it’d be interesting to see them break free of small screens, perhaps via projection tools like this.

All of this activity around AR could eventually make it more popular than virtual reality, even though VR has a head start. While this might lead to some problems, it’s also likely to keep many people entertained.

Ishikawa Watanabe Laboratory did not respond to a request for clarification on when this technology might be commercially available. But it’s clear that these researchers are committed to this technology — and if they’re able to make the projections more detailed, it’s not hard to imagine dynamic projections like these being used to help AR match or overtake VR as the world’s technological escape mechanism of choice.