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New Tech Would Let You Change Outfits Without Changing Your Clothes

A new projection mapping technique out of Tokyo could make a big splash in the worlds of fashion, theater, and retail.

New Tech Would Let You Change Outfits Without Changing Your Clothes

Projection mapping is a magic-feeling technology that gives creators the ability to paint with light on any surface. It allows for some pretty amazing and transformative effects, but it only works well on solid shapes. Fluttering is the enemy of projection mapping: try to do it on a sheet, a T-shirt, or a piece of paper and whatever illusion is trying to be created quickly falls apart.

This, more than anything, has prevented projection mapping from being embraced in the realms of theater, retail, and fashion. A team at the Ishikawa Watanabe Laboratory at the University of Tokyo may have solved the problem. They have created new technology that allow them to project any pattern they want on multiple items of moving fabric.

The technique, which they call dynamic projection, requires two major innovations. The first is a special high-speed projector, the Dynaflash, which is capable of projecting 8-bit patterns at up to 1,000 frames per second–the theoretical limit of human vision. Comparatively, many high-end consumer projectors top out at around 120 frames per second. In combination with a system that can map multiple moving targets just as fast, the system can dynamically adjust the pattern it is projecting onto a target as it deforms with life-like accuracy.

The use cases? In the theater, dynamic projection could allow actors to appear to change costumes without ever hitting the dressing room. A fashion week designer show could be done with just a single model, marching back and forth down the catwalk. Or a mannequin in a department store window could change its outfit in reaction to the weather multiple times per day, without ever sending in a sales associate with a new armful of clothes.

Read more about Dynamic Projection here.

About the author

John Brownlee is a design writer who lives in Somerville, Massachusetts. You can email him at john.brownlee+fastco@gmail.com.