Technological software advancements have to start somewhere, which is why we’re going to dive into the revolutionary history of projection mapping and how we got to be where we are today.


The year the first man landed on the moon was also the year that the first known instance of 3D projection mapping was presented to the world. The Haunted Mansion ride in Disneyland opened that year, featuring a variety of optical illusions that included singing busts, disembodied heads and ghosts that were projected onto a non-flat surface.


The next recorded occurrence of 3D projection mapping happened in 1980, with a film installation known as “Displacements” by Michael Naimark. This features a living room that had two performers who were filmed on a rotating camera. That was until the camera was replaced with a projector, resulting in rotating projection mapping.


Disney strikes again in the projection mapping industry. By 1991, they were pioneers in the industry with the earliest technology patent. Titled “Apparatus and method for projection upon a 3D object,” it described a system in which you could digitally paint an image onto a 3D object that wasn’t a completely flat surface.


However, Disney wasn’t the only one with a patent at the time. General Electric Company had an early patent for a system, as well as techniques, to superimpose a precise digital image onto a physical object in the physical world.


Once projection mapping was brought into the academic work is when it truly started to gain traction. Spatial augmented reality was created on UNC Chapel Hill, where the vision of a world with projectors covering any surface took root. Augmented reality could be experienced from your desk rather than a small monitor.


In 1999, John Underkoffler pioneered early interactive projection mapping work. It was then that he introduced the idea of the Input/Output Bulb, which was a projector that was coupled with a camera.


From there, experimentation with movable projectors was pushed to the forefront. Small, handheld projectors that were aware of both their positioning and orientation with the help of a variety of sensors were used to demonstrate how it could help with warehouse maintenance and inventory.

2005 – 2006

The idea of projecting images like painting onto drapes and official projection screens was explored by Oliver Bimber.

And now we have projections everywhere you go, open to consumers to purchase small versions for your home theatre or office work. Augmented reality has grown leaps and bounds since it’s initial conception, providing great entertainment and fun for all.

At Above Mapping, we’re a creative technology studio that specializes in the development of projection mapping, motion graphics, visual effects, animation and more. Located in Toronto, Ontario, some of our services include 3D projection mapping, virtual reality, video editing, and intricate LED lighting. We work closely with clients to bring their vision to life, combining art and technology to create a memorable experience for viewers. Servicing clients around the world, be sure to visit our website for more information.