Handheld Projectors

SixthSense: Newspaper showing live video news

There’s something a little amazing that happens every time you set up a video projector. All the cables get connected, you turn the projector on, and during the process of placing it, the image may show up on an unexpected surface. It’s cool, so you move the projector around to see what it looks like in other places. For example, at home, we often watch movies outside on a screen, but have tried projecting onto the leaves of a tree, or the stairs.

Projection mapping is one application of this sort of fun. But the projector is fixed – so the applications are more about changing how the surface is perceived. Handheld projectors give more control to the user, encouraging interactivity. And as these small pico-projectors get more common, this sort of magic will be just an everyday thing. So it’s interesting to see the research taking place to figure-out applications of the technology.

Motion Beam is a project from CMU and Disney Research that looks at how handheld projectors can be used to interact with, and control, characters. The team has developed a couple interaction principles, and applied them to character and racing games. They also have a cute demo of how a projected character can interact with physical items in the environment — in this example, bouncing when it moves over a trampoline.

SixthSense is a super-cool project done by Pranav Mistry while at the MIT Media Lab’s Fluid Interfaces Group. The project looks at how a gestural user interface, combined with camera and projector, can sense the environment around the user, and project relevant supplemental information. There are definitely aspects of augmented reality here — but projecting the additional information, rather than using a display, gives it a really interesting immediacy.

The Pasta&Vinegar blog recently posted about a report on how people may want to use such technology. They noted some social responses. One wasn’t so surprising — that people were reluctant to project personal information such as txt messages. But the fact that other observers had little interest in reading the projections of others was an interesting contrast. (Coincidentally, Russell Davies recently experimented with something along these lines, as he projected a twitter feed alongside his television at home.)

Motion Beam: Character Game
Motion Beam: Game sequences
Motion Beam: Interaction Principles
SixthSense: Using palm for dialing a phone number
SixthSense: Boarding pass showing the live flight status