Eric Mika

Make any space writable with a markerless, hand-held, spatially aware augmented reality projection system.


The überbeamer is a means of making any surface writable. It takes the basic premise of augmented reality — the mediation of physical space via an overlay digital information — and expands upon it by introducing a new, universal, and direct means of interacting with a space. Instead of using an iPhone as a window to an augmented world, the überbeamer flattens the information layer and the surface layer by using a beamer (a.k.a. a projector) to draw content directly onto any surface. By building and storing a three dimensional model of an environment on the fly, the überbeamer knows where you are (relative to where you’ve been) and can project its overlay in a spatially consistent way. Since you’re holding the projector, it becomes an intuitive navigation interface — just point it where you want to see, or point it where you want to write.

User Scenario
A user of the intrinsic projection system starts by picking up a large, rather awkward bundle of electronics -- there’s a laptop, a pico projector, a Kinect, a battery pack, and a small control panel with a pair of buttons. They hoist the contraption over their shoulder to make it easier to carry around.

Upon turning it on, a rectangle of faint light is cast on the wall by the projector. In the center of the projection there’s a small icon resembling a pencil. The user pushes down on the first button. At first nothing seems to happen. Then they move a bit, panning the rectangle of light across the wall. The pencil stays in the middle of the projection, but in its wake a thin line forms, tracing a history of the projection’s path through space. The user lets go of the button, and the line stops drawing, but the drawing persists, fixed in the exact location on the wall where it was first traced, regardless of where the projector is pointed.

The user swings the projector to the right, and the projection is now completely out of view of the line. The projection’s blank again, save for the pencil in the middle. The user tries the second button, and a layer of gridded rectangles appears on the wall, each with an icon inside. Now, as the projector sweeps through the grid, different buttons are highlighted depending on which one falls under the center of the projection. The choices resemble the canonical spread of drawing and image manipulation tools appropriated from the Mac Paint / Photoshop metaphors. A press of the first button trades the pencil at the center of the projection for a rectangular selection tool.

By holding down the first button and moving the projection across the screen, a rectangle of marching ants is drawn. Upon letting go of the button, the camera in the Kinect “picks up” the piece of wall that was selected, and attaches it to the center of the projection. As the projection moves through the room, the image taken by the selection box comes with it. Another click of the first button pastes the chunk of wall, fixating it to a new point in the room.

The user brings up the tool grid again, and this time picks a larger paint brush. The user tilts the intrinsic projector upwards, drawing a line from the wall to the ceiling. As the projection meets the corner of the room, the projected content is corrected to accommodate the change in surface geometry. Throughout the process, anything placed on the wall appears to become part of the wall, not merely part of the projection. As the projector is moved back towards where it started, the pencil line comes back into view, exactly where it was drawn earlier in the session.

In this way, the user can turn any interior space into a writable environment, navigated by physical movement and cropped by the throw of the projector.

Intrinsic projection is really more of a platform than an application -- the user scenario described above represents just one possible use. Any system requiring the navigation or production of large amounts of information or freedom of movement could be adapted to the platform.