Researchers from the University of Tokyo have made an incredible advance in the field of real-time projection mapping, creating a new system that can simulate the way light reflects off a nonexistent three-dimensional structure. The result is stunningly realistic dynamic projection that heralds a new generation of trippy performance art.

The team, from the Ishikawa Watanabe Laboratory, has been slowly working for several years to develop all the independent components that make up this remarkably advanced system. First, a high-speed projector needed to be created allowing for 8-bit level images to be projected at up to 1,000 frames per second.

A 3D motion-tracking system was also developed, utilizing 10 cameras able to map the movement of objects at high speed and recognize a degree of granular deformation in the mapped objects. An early example of the system was used to project an image onto a t-shirt. The projection recognized when the fabric was being stretched and could mirror its output in realtime so it appeared as if the projected image was actually printed onto the clothing.

The latest iteration of this technology takes the illusion even further, adding a three-dimensional light mapping element to make the projection seem like a real 3D object reflecting light. The demonstration video (seen below) shows a variety of textures responding to movement in real-time, from metal that reflects a light source as if a spotlight is being shined on it, to a weird, uneven organic pattern that looks like it is an alien snake wrapped around a moving human body.

Just one year ago, the Ishikawa Watanabe Laboratory team collaborated with Japanese artist Nobumichi Asai on a mind-bending facial projection installation called INORI. This was a demonstration of the first iteration of this high-speed projection mapping technology, and now the team has taken it even further with this new development that incorporates small dynamic light reflections that begin to fundamentally blur the boundary between the real and the unreal.

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