The Dark Art Of Projection Mapping Now Starts With A $5 Phone App

Optoma introduces Projection Mapper, the first mobile app to enable users to project images and video simultaneously onto multiple flat surfaces or three-dimensional objects to create artful entertainment displays in homes, yards, and more. (PRNewsFoto/Optoma Technology)

There was a time, not long ago, when projection mapping was an intensely complicated, labour-intensive art form only high technical, deeply experienced pros could pull off.

Now it’s a $5 app for iOS or Android.

Well, sorta. The prosumer projector firm Optoma has just announced Projection Mapper, what it has dubbed “the first mobile app to enable users to project images and video simultaneously onto multiple flat surfaces or three-dimensional objects to create artful entertainment displays.”

In a nutshell, it’s an app that users can run on a tablet (a smartphone screen is a wee bit small) that would allow those users to target a projection surface and then using their fingers monkey with the app software to position projection feeds on to specific zones … and not just squares and rectangles.

The video demo below suggests it’s pretty slick, in a simplistic Projection Mapping 101 kind of way. This is not something the guys at Moment Factory in Montreal or Obscura Digital in San Francisco are going to start using instead of Christie’s Mystique software or the software and servers marketed by the UK’s D3. Those are pro products.

This is a consumer/entry-level business product – arguably enough for a pro AV company or ambitious nerd/hobbyist to pull off a slick presentation for a company event or maybe a wedding. If all they are doing is projecting on a few surfaces, and not doing wild things like edge-blending or working with curved surfaces, this might well be enough.

And Optoma, the guys behind this (we’ll assume they are partnering with the developer Reo-Tek), don’t sell projectors that try to compete with cinema-grade projectors from the likes of Christie and Barco. Consumers and office managers are their people.

Here’s how Optoma describes it:

Compatible with any projector that connects to smart devices via Airplay, Chromecast or HDMI cable, Projection Mapper is a simple and inexpensive new way to display pictures, videos and graphic displays onto any space. Mapping allows users to set multiple pieces of content to fit different surfaces simultaneously.

With Projection Mapper you can DJ your own party while displaying cool graphics or images across different items in your home, or share family moments with photos displaying on one space while a family video runs on another. Beyond projecting content like movies, games and sports, users can now create engaging, live content experiences and digital art displays on nearly any surface.

Projection Mapper is an intuitive, easy-to-use app enabling anyone to:

  • Achieve a professional mapping display;
  • Display multiple images and video at once – using multiple image sizes and resolutions up to and including high definition content, and in .JPG, .PNG, .MP4, .MOV, M4V, 3GP and MKV formats;
  • Create digital art displays with personal images and video to display family photos, vacation videos and more to create an entertaining, multi-stream entertainment experience;
  • Map onto multiple surfaces and shapes, an in multiple colors and textures;
  • Time content to music to create a personal VJ experience;
  • Purchase professional grade, themed content packages for holidays, events and seasons to celebrate with and entertain family and friends.

“As projection increasingly becomes a mainstream entertainment experience, we’re excited to bring fun and unique experiences to users,” says Brian Soto, head of product management, Optoma Technology. “Content mapping has existed in the professional realm for years, bringing art and entertainment to venues around the world. And with the holidays upon us, it opens endless possibilities for festive entertainment displays.”

Very interesting to see this develop. It will mean you’ll see more projection mapping jobs attempted. A lot/most of it will look bad. But it will generate activity and interest in getting better at it. I’m sure a lot of graphic designers got their feet wet in MS Paint before they found their way to Photoshop and Illustrator.

I also have some doubts about how much video – as in multiple vids – a typical smartphone or tablet can push out, as the premise here is mostly that the media player is a smart device.

Dave Haynes

Dave Haynes

Editor/Founder at Sixteen:Nine
Dave Haynes is the founder and editor of Sixteen:Nine, an online publication that has followed the digital signage industry for more than a decade. Dave does strategic advisory consulting work for many end-users and vendors, and also writes for many of them. He's based near Toronto.
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