The most reliably impressive technology I've played with this decade is projection-mapping: using powerful LCD projectors to paint 3D surfaces with images tailored to map exactly over those surfaces, turning plaster and paint into stone, wood, or animated surfaces.
I just got back from speaking at a conference in Orlando, where I snuck off one night and rode the new Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, where projection mapping is used both inside robots (to paint animated faces on translucent face-shapes) and the walls around them — it was literally breathtaking, and then I saw the same effects on the new Epcot Frozen ride and totally lost it.
Anyway, a company called Lightform is proposing to bring projection mapping to our homes, with a tool that maps out the geometry of your rooms, then skins them with lighting effects. I'm pretty much 100% disinterested in fancy, horribly insecure LED lightbulbs that provide "mood lighting," but the idea of projection mapping my home makes me excited beyond words.
But Lightform's software automates the mapping process. It handles all the calculations, and can even fine-tune its alignment when objects move. "They're helping solve the randomness of 3-D space," says Mark Rolston, a co-founder of Argodesign who's been exploring projected interfaces for the better part of a decade. "When you think about the wildness of the world, that's a non trivial problem to solve."
Lightform's technology sets the stage for more complex and immersive forms of interaction. The company aims to develop high-resolution augmented reality projections that track objects and respond to human input in real time. Its ultimate goal: Make projected light so functional and ubiquitous that it replaces screens as we know them in daily life life. "Really what we're doing is bringing computing out into the real world where we live," Sodhi says.
Lightform: The Magical Little Device That Transforms Whole Rooms Into Screens [Liz Stinson/Wired]