Researchers at Ishikawa Watanabe Laboratory, the University of Tokyo, and Tokyo Electron Device have developed a high-speed projector system that can track and flawlessly match the complex movements of whatever surface it’s projecting on.
Running at 1,000 frames per second, the projector is matched with a camera running at the same frame rate so that it can constantly keep track of how a given surface is moving and automatically adjust the projected image with the proper distortion so that it looks like it’s perfectly locked onto its surface.
But instead of designing a special rig to move a heavy projector around at high speeds, the researchers actually modified existing projection technologies to realize their custom system on a smaller scale.
Inside many projectors you’ll find a tiny Texas Instruments DLP chip that’s covered in thousands of even tinier mirrors that individually move at high speed to reflect red, green, or blue light towards a screen. When all working in unison the tiny mirrors end up producing a moving full color image on screen, but in this case the DLP chips have been modified to instead move and warp the entire image.
In its current form, the high-speed projection system is limited to just an 8-bit color scale—that’s only 256 shades—and a resolution of 1,024 x 768. But as the custom technology is further refined, those specs could eventually see a boost in resolution and color.
So one day, instead of keeping a smartphone in your pocket, a virtual display could simply be projected onto your open hand and down your arm. And while the original version of Google Glass required a prism sitting in front of your eye for its display, future versions could use any surface around you as a screen. Whether you’re staring at a wall—or looking at the floor while riding a bumpy bus on the way to work.