Where better in the world to introduce elegant moving screens than a country that made narrative on flat surfaces come alive, from painted screens to manga?

Magician, visualist, and technologist Marco Tempest sends this brilliant video documentation of the work he’s been doing with what he calls “Magic Projection.” The technique is simple – and extraordinarily effective. Infrared tracking points in the screen, coupled with extremely efficient vision analysis software on the computer, produce a perfectly-scaled image. Beyond that, everything is Marco’s own ingenuity. (One reason I think we all have a lot to learn from Marco is that his sense of how to do things as a magician is different from how a lot of us with arts backgrounds approach developing our techniques.)

This is, of course, markedly different from manual projection mapping, which requires that you scale your image by hand to whatever surface you’re using.

The tools are all free and open source. Our friend Zach Lieberman, a fantastically-skilled coder and originator of OpenFrameworks, worked to develop the project with OF, Intel’s free vision library OpenCV, free hardware platform Arduino, and Sony PS 3 Eye drivers MacCam. (OpenFrameworks, for those of you just joining us, is the Processing-inspired, artist-friendly C++ coding platform.)

Description from Marco:

Here is my “Magic Projection” system out on the streets in Tokyo. “Magic Projection” is my new Augmented Reality Projection Tracking system created for use in my magic stage performances. Have a look and let me know what you think.

The system works by tracking embedded infrared LED tracking markers in lightweight screens with a modified PS3 EyeToy camera and then fits projected video images onto moving screens at 120 fps.

In addition it features a virtual spotlight to light the performer while holding the screen without spilling light onto the projection surface, real-time 2D particle physics, an electronic whiteboard and a 3D function that rotates 3D objects in real time in relationship to the screen angle relative to the projector.

And yes, I was a bit lazy and didn’t link to Johnny Lee’s work, which inspired this (and is credited accordingly):

Foldable Displays (tracked with the Wiimote)

The Wiimote also works effectively; Marco is instead using the PS3 Eye, which will also work as a camera feed if that’s important. Lee’s creation plays with the idea of folding, but as you can see, the idea is familiar. (Thanks, John Holdun!)