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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Cellphone motion projector throws gaming onto the wall

Mike Fitzpatrick, contributor

In 19th century Japan, a form of theatre known as Utsushi-e, which used light from lanterns to project stories and images onto rice paper screen, was hugely popular.

Now Disney has used this pre-cinema artform as its inspiration for a modern equivalent: a projector for your smartphone.

Many cellphone sold in Japan and Korea already have tiny "pico" projectors embedded in them -- handy for catching a film on your hotel room wall. Disney appears to be thinking ahead for western smartphones and is already developing game applications for such phones, which it will reveal for the first time at CHI 2011 conference.

Led by researcher Karl Willis and Ivan Poupyrev at the Disney Research labs in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the MotionBeam project explores the use of hand-held projectors to interact and control projected characters in games played as the images are thrown onto a wall.

One of the first Motion Beam games lets the user control a small yellow character which scampers across the wall collecting stars as it goes. The user guides the figures by gesturing with the handheld projector itself as if it was a torch, and interacting with the game as it is projected onto a white wall.

The prototype combines an iPod Touch, a laser projector, and a microcontroller-sensor unit. The attached sensors include an accelerometer and gyroscope to detect the smartphone's movements as well as an ultrasonic distance sensor to work out how far the projector is from the viewing wall.

Disney says it was inspired by Utsushi-e as well as the European belt-mounted magic lantern from 1823 that was used to give a sense of movement to still images of the time.