Lightform connects to a video projector to beam images and animations on to surrounding objects, essentially turning any surface into a screen (a technique called projection mapping). It scans the environment using depth sensors to map the shape of objects, then tailors its lighting effects to fit. The idea is to seamlessly merge the virtual world with the physical world, without wearing anything on your face. Initial demos show a coffee shop’s price list materialising on a blank slate, squiggly lines dancing across a store window display, and a cactus undulating with decorative pulses of light.
But eliminating headsets would mean many people can share in an AR experience at once and without special preparation, and removes problems around the comfort, weight and power cables of wearable displays. Projection mapping technology is usually used for large-scale, one-off events. The size of the projection depends on the projector. The mapping is not quite real-time – it takes about a minute to do a scan – and you can’t interact with the projected images, unlike with some systems that use haptic devices or motion tracking to give users the illusion of touching what they see.