Projection AR to make every surface come alive! Our investment in Lightform.
By Bilal Zuberi
A few years back we saw an insanely magical art performance on youtube. It was a video done by the geniuses at Bot and Dolly, and their robot-meets-projection-mapping spectacle was breath-taking (see below). We encourage you to also watch their ‘making of’ video.
A quick search online will lead you to many amazing videos using projection mapping. We have spent hours watching incredible videos utilizing this technology that blends the real and the imaginary worlds. Here’s the problem though: projection mapping installations are complicated and expensive to produce, often project only on non-moving/static surfaces, and require manual precise alignment at regular intervals. For those reasons, projection mapping has remained out of the hands of ordinary people.
But that is to be no more. We are proud to share news about Lux funding a new startup, Lightform, founded by Brett, Raj and Kevin — brilliant computational imaging and AR/VR experts that now aim to democratize projection mapping. Lightform has been financed so far by Lux Capital, Seven Seas Capital, some senior executives in the AR/VR world, and NSF.
Lightform’s team combines years of projection mapping experience ranging from large scale entertainment experiences to PhD research experiments. They have developed theme park rides at Disney Imagineering, designed software behind Bot & Dolly’s Box, mapped building facades at Obscura, and created immersive AR prototypes IllumiRoom and RoomAlive at Microsoft Research. This team also runs the most popular blog on projection mapping, featuring community submissions from around the world.
Lightform is the first computer made for projected augmented reality, and the company offers the first end-to-end workflow for projection mapping, making it possible for a single user to 3D scan, create content, and deploy an installation in one sitting. This includes initial scanning of the surface you want projection on, 3D animation, and auto-alignment if object moves. Literally out of the box, when you turn the Lightform app on you are not projected by a blank screen, but 3D content related to the object/wall/surface in view, and that 3D information obtained from their proprietary camera + software is used to drive AI-generated effects and real-time filters for your projection project. You can imagine it to work as simply as pointing your light projector (with Lightform camera attached) on any surface you may want to project on, turn on the app, create or import content you want projected, add any 3D visual effects you like, and…voila — you have brought that surface to life! (see image below). Lightform wants to democratize this medium so it can be used anywhere across film, art, education, cultural exhibits, events, signage, home entertainment, weddings, seasonal decor, theater, dance, and more.
We are very excited to see how Lightform can bring projection mapping to our every day commercial and consumer uses. This is an insanely creative team that wants to change the fact that only big budget productions have had access to this magical technology in the past. They want to start the movement towards making projected AR a part of every day life. They see projected AR becoming an integral part of architecture and interiors, projectors eventually becoming as ubiquitous as light fixtures, and ubiquitous projection-as-lighting can enhance or create art, signage, decor, and interactive displays. Possibilities are endless!