You may have heard of augmented reality (AR) and projectors before, but what about an augmented reality projector? It may sound like something from a science fiction movie, yet it is absolutely a reality. Projection based augmented reality is used across several industries to improve sales, education, interactions, communication, and more.
To put it simply, augmented reality projectors use a mixture of vision sensors and projectors to display life-like and interactive virtual objects. With the use of AR software, artificial objects can even be programmed for direct 3D interactions.
Projection based augmented reality supports the visualization of a virtual object and the active feeling of interacting with it by using projection mapping. The use of an interactive projector is a great way to keep your audience engaged.
Artificial intelligence (AI) is often used in augmented reality software to assist in creating seamless virtual experiences. When used in a training environment, AI-enabled projection based augmented reality can prevent errors by guiding users until they perform the correct task.
Augmented reality projectors combine several technologies such as depth sensors and projection mapping. These technologies and tracking features allow for the projection of virtual objects on both static and dynamic surfaces. Dynamic projection mapping projects images onto multiple surfaces simultaneously, including irregularly shaped objects like a chair or a statue.
If you want to learn more about augmented reality or its connection to projectors, you have come to the right place! Here you can learn about augmented reality projectors, their history, how they work, the technologies they use, and some of their applications in top industries across the globe.
What Is Augmented Reality and Its Connection To Projectors?
To understand more about augmented reality projectors, you must first know what AR is. Augmented reality projects digital information on top of the physical world around you. It can be used for functional purposes such as translating languages on signs or for entertainment like playing Pokemon Go.
American software development company Niantic invented Pokemon Go. Though it uses a smartphone or tablet-based AR, it has still had a significant influence on the gaming and augmented reality industry. The popularity of Pokemon Go also led to other sectors like fashion, tourism, and retail trying out more augmented reality.
Augmented reality is similar to virtual reality (VR), except with VR your real-life environment is replaced by a digitally simulated one. With augmented reality projection, instead of being in an immersive digital environment, you are in a real-world setting but interacting with virtual objects.
Pew Research Center and Elon University surveyed several technology experts regarding the future of the metaverse. The metaverse is best defined as an integrated network of 3D virtual worlds. The majority surveyed expect that in the future, augmented reality applications will be more useful in their everyday lives compared to virtual reality.
In the past, augmented reality required a monitor, tablet, phone, or a headset for the experience. With projection based AR, showing information or artificial objects uses projectors. You may have thought projectors were only a part of your home cinema, but they can actually do a lot more.
AR projection offers an advantage over other forms of augmented reality because it allows side-by-side collaboration with other people since the displays are not associated with each user. This benefit means that a group of users can visualize and interact with the same virtual objects.
The History Behind Augmented Reality Visualization
Ivan Sutherland, a Harvard computer scientist, was the first to create augmented reality. Widely renowned as the “father of computer graphics,” he developed the first augmented reality visualization with a head-mounted display system in 1968.
Later on, a computer artist named Myron Krueger created the first virtual reality projection in 1975. Krueger invented Videoplace, an artificial reality lab that allowed users to interact with virtual objects in actual time.
This early augmented reality was developed further by national agencies, companies, and universities into larger displays and more comfortable and compact wearable technology. The more advanced design allowed for overlaying information onto the physical environment. This design eventually led to the development of flight simulation software used by military and private aviation.
The first commercial use of direct interaction with AR was for the 2008 debut of the BMW Mini car. A magazine advertisement was created with three images that instructed you to place the ad in front of a computer webcam. Because of markers that were connected to the ad, the BMW Mini would appear to be on the magazine when looking at the computer screen. The tracking features allowed you to move the car around by simply sliding your fingers along the physical ad.
While brands continued to advance augmented reality in the public eye, it was in the early 2010s that it began to move into people’s homes. Trying on virtual objects — like watches or glasses — from the comfort of your home became all the rage.
More recently, companies have developed software that combines advanced realtime tracking with 2D modeling technology. This creation allows users to try on virtual makeup and different hair colors at home.
How Projection-Based AR Works
Projection based augmented reality combines 3D sensing systems, like depth sensors, with visible imaging sensors. The virtual reality portion is simulated using software and then projected onto a selected surface. Projection based AR works through four primary processes.
1. Mapping Camera and Projector Lens Are Calibrated
A mapping camera takes a short series of photos that shows structured light patterns projected onto a selected area. Pattern sequences are developed from multiple projectors in different locations which prevent any spots from being left out of the shot.
The projector lens and the mapping camera are calibrated. The calibration uses world coordinates, 3D points, and projector pixel locations to estimate the pinhole model parameters. The pinhole model parameters are used to approximate the actual size of a physical object or determine the location of the mapping camera in relation to the physical world. There is calibration software available to make this task a lot easier.
Mapping and calibration allow the augmented reality projector to display static (motionless) and dynamic (animated) images realistically onto any surface. AR projection uses advanced realtime tracking when the surface area moves or is dynamic. This technology is called projection mapping.
2. Edge and Depth Sensors Determine Dimensions
Once the projection mapping of the area in which AR will be used is complete, it is then necessary for edge and depth sensors to determine the exact parameters and the distance between objects in the intended area. Depth sensors are essential in projection based augmented reality because they provide live 3D models of the intended space.
The edge and depth sensors provide data that allow for occlusion, or hiding of virtual objects by physical ones. Essentially this means if there is a real-world item in front of your virtual reality projection, the virtual object will go behind the physical one.
For example, say you use AR to project a virtual lion in front of you. At the same time, there is a chair in front of you. With the use of occlusion provided by depth sensors, the lion can appear behind the chair instead of over it — resulting in a more realistic image.
3. Virtual Reality Is Designed Using Software
The third process of AR projection involves using software to design the virtual reality you desire. Traditionally, people have used 3D computer graphic programs such as 3ds Max for this task. However, with the rise of virtual and augmented reality, dedicated programs like Google Blocks and Oculus Medium have recently arrived on the market.
Another option on the rise is premade 3D models of objects like cars or televisions and entire rooms like kitchens or dens. Various websites are now available that offer ready-made models like these that range from simple, everyday designs to complex, highly detailed environments.
4. Direct Projection To a Select Surface
After you have calibrated the camera and lens, determined the dimensions using edge and depth sensors, and then used software to create your designs, the last step is the direct projection to a surface, physical object, or both.
The surface you choose might be a wall to construct vibrant scenery or a desk to host 3D interactions. The use of projection mapping allows for projection on irregularly shaped, or not flat, objects.
Augmented Reality Technology and Devices
There are several different technologies and devices involved with augmented reality projection.
The projector projects the image onto a select surface. Projection-mapping technology allows that projection to be on an irregularly shaped or dynamic surface. Finally, scene and artificial design software create rich, immersive virtual objects and surroundings. You can learn more about each device and technology used below.
A projector is a device that projects an image or animation onto a surface. Historically, this was a flat, fixed object like a projection screen. Projectors from the past worked by shining a light directly through a transparent lens. However, more modern technology has been developed since — specifically laser projectors.
A laser projector uses three different color lasers: blue, red, and green. These three primary colors are used together to create full-color images. Traditional projectors use white light that is filtered to create each color. Because of their precision, laser projectors are more energy efficient.
You can use either a light or laser projector for augmented reality projection. However, laser projectors are said to be better and the future of projectors.
Projection Mapping Technology
Projection mapping technology allows you to project a static or dynamic image over any object or surface. In the past, you could only project an image onto a flat surface. However, the invention of projection mapping allowed video projection onto irregularly shaped surfaces. Projection mapping can turn anything from an entire building to a single chair into a projection surface.
Scene and Artificial Design Software
Scene and artificial design software assist you in creating images and digital data. You can then overlay the image or data onto physical objects or surfaces.
Involving artificial intelligence can provide direct interaction through sound and 3D interaction techniques. Augmented reality design software vendors like Apple ARKit and Google ARCore are ranked among the top right now due to their AI-enabled designs.
The Different Types of AR Projection
There are two different types of augmented reality projection, static and dynamic. Each has its individual uses and applications.
Static AR Projection
Static AR projection means the surface and content are unmoving. Though the content may have some digital effects that look like an animation, nothing is moving. There is also no projection mapping involved. An example of static AR projection would be a flat, unmoving surface with an image projected onto it.
Dynamic AR Projection
Dynamic AR projection involves content and surfaces that move. It interacts with physical triggers through dynamic projection mapping. With this, the projection surface can move around and the projected image will move around too. An example of dynamic AR projection would be a moving surface with a projected image that moves with it.
AR Projectors in Different Fields
Augmented reality projectors are currently being used in a variety of fields. Though many industries have taken advantage of augmented reality through the use of mobile apps and computers, more are now realizing the value of using AR projectors as well. Out of all the different AR options available, projection based augmented reality is said to be the most versatile which makes it popular across many industries.
Some of the top industries using AR projectors include gaming, education, advertising, restaurants, and art. The value and uses of augmented reality in these industries are for entertainment, education, and sales.
Using augmented reality projectors for gaming allows for a new level of immersion. On a smaller scale, there is VirtualTable, a projection based augmented reality game created by a team at the Technical University of Denmark. VirtualTable combines the sensation of being able to move physical objects and experience direct interactions with the projected gaming objects.
Ariana Projection Concept by Razer is a larger-scale example of AR projectors currently used in gaming. After its unveiling at the Consumer Electronics Show, reports revealed it contains a 155-degree fisheye lens and two depth-sensing cameras to detect any objects in the way and change the image to avoid distortion.
Education and Classrooms
Historically, projectors have been used in classrooms to aid teachers. For example, they made it easier to show an entire class how to solve a math problem instead of showing each student individually. Augmented reality projectors are now becoming more common in education and classrooms.
One example of this is a projection based AR program called Moon. This design allows teachers to project augmented reality content over a textbook. Within the Moon program, they can interact with students by leaving notes, highlighting images, or underlining paragraphs in actual time. Moon is hoping to make online teaching and learning more fulfilling and less complex.
AR projectors are used for all education levels to help students visualize and learn complicated subjects and understand abstract concepts. A group of students at The University of Rochester demonstrated these benefits when they used augmented reality to operate a chemical plant. AR allowed them to experiment with different chemical reactions — something they might not have been able to do otherwise.
Augmented reality has been used in advertising since the 2008 debut of the BMW Mini ad. Using projection based augmented reality for advertising happened with another car, the Hyundai Accent, in 2011.
In this buzz-inducing stunt, Hyundai used 3D projection mapping to place an image on the side of a building. They added another surprise by suspending a car in front of the projection and having a driver walk to it.
Another spectacular use of projection based augmented reality in advertising came from Pepsi in 2014. They worked with a creative agency called Grand Visual to produce several mind-blowing events around Britain using projection mapping.
One popular event happened in London when they used augmented reality projection to make crazy events — like a meteor hitting the earth or giant robots attacking — appear on the side of a bus stop right before the eyes of the public. These projections were to promote the “unbelievable” flavor of the new Pepsi Max.
Many restaurants have used augmented reality to improve the visualizations of their menu, allow for direct interactions, or to bring their menu to life with the use of a tiny chef who cooks the menu items. An establishment named Le Petit Chef has delighted countless patrons across the globe with its use of 3D projection mapping.
At all their restaurants, patrons are treated to a pint-sized chef who prepares their dish directly at their table. Research shows that these 3D interaction techniques through AR projection improve the overall “food well-being” of a diner. Food well-being is defined as having a positive psychological, physical, emotional, and social relationship with food.
Art and Showrooms
Projection based augmented reality is used to enhance art viewing in galleries and retail goods in showrooms. One study showed that AR could successfully enhance visits to historic cultural sites. An after-visit survey revealed that visitors felt better engaged with the location due to the augmented reality enrichment.
In 2017, BMW promoted its new 7 Series car with projection based augmented reality. Visitors in showrooms across the world were able to watch the evolution of the car in two minutes. Using several projectors and projection mapping allowed perfectly sized and synchronized images to flow seamlessly across the vehicle.
Museums and art galleries around the world have been adding augmented reality projection exhibits. For instance, the Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle in Paris, France debuted a new experience in 2021 called Revivre. AR projection is used in this experience to bring extinct species “back to life” so visitors can walk alongside them.
A similar experience using AR projection can be found at the Heroes & Legends Exhibit at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Merritt Island, Florida. Gene Cernan’s famous Gemini 9 spacewalk is shown using real voiceovers and 3D graphics to let visitors experience the excitement and danger of space firsthand.
The Future of Augmented Reality Projectors
The future is very bright for the use of augmented reality projectors. For instance, the estimated worth of the augmented reality market in 2022 is $37 billion. By 2027, it is forecast to be worth around $114.5 billion — an estimated growth of 25.3% over five years.
Other research showed an uptick in investments in AR and VR during 2020 — likely due to the coronavirus pandemic. New needs and trends emerged from this. Experts have said they do not expect these trends to rescind but instead continue to rise.
Using AR projection can create a closer bond between brands and consumers. Therefore, companies must become familiar with augmented reality for advertising and marketing in the future to attract new customers and retain existing ones.
Corporate giant Disney recently patented a new projection based augmented reality technology. Disney expects to track visitors throughout its parks to offer personalized 3D interactions. The patent noted the superiority of AR projection over mobile and wearable devices since it offers the ability to create a convenient shared virtual experience.
By all accounts, augmented reality projectors have become the preferred method of AR for many different industries across the globe. They create a shared user experience without using burdensome headwear or individual small displays. It is expected that more corporations and personal users will take further advantage of AR projectors in the future. Using the guidance of The Projector Expert will allow you to stay on top of these future trends.