If you’re reading this, there’s a better than 90% chance you’ve seen “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” If so, you’re familiar with the Holodeck: a room where 3D interactive worlds can be generated for users. We’re nowhere near those 3D projected light objects, but we are getting remarkably close to the ability to make a room look like just about anything needed.

The technology behind this is called projection mapping, and it’s often used in art installations and galleries where entire rooms are intended to be transformed into something entirely impossible. The results are rooms covered in shifting mandalas, and boxes that can change their skin like an octopus.

IRMA / Save me from SUPERBIEN on Vimeo.

The above music video was shot in one take with a four-wall projection-mapping setup. You can see that the effects are quite stunning, but even more so when you realize this was in real time and could be performed live.

There are quite a few building blocks for this type of installation piece, but the absolute most fundamental block is Syphon, an open-source project that allows images to be shared across applications at high speeds without any frame loss or dropping.

Syphon doesn’t do the projection mapping, it just distributes the images being projected from the coordination application to the projection controller apps. It will eventually be able to stream full-frame video into other applications, and it can be used with Unity for game development.

Rather than go through the lengthy list of all the projection-mapping projects and applications that build on top of Syphon, we’d rather just show you this example: a cemetery turned into a cartoon.

About Alex Handy

Alex Handy is the Senior Editor of Software Development Times.