The technology behind projected augmented reality (otherwise known as video mapping) has been around for years, but until now, it has been packaged in expensive, difficult to use shells. San Francisco’s Lightform Inc – the team behind landmark AR projects for Microsoft and Disney – has invented a simple, easy to use tool specifically for designers.

With the new LF1, users can transform normal scenes into immersive experiences – a staircase can become a projected AR waterfall, or a retail display can become an interactive screen, projecting fire, rain, or product information. To do this, the LF1 scans the environment using depth sensors to map the shape of objects, then tailors its lighting effects to fit.

‘Lightform allows you to design beyond the screen. Now the world is literally your canvas,’ says Brett Jones, the CEO of Lightform Inc. Importantly, for the first time, no headset is required. The new combined camera and computer superimposes images over real-world objects without the need for a bulky head-mounted display.

This makes the possibilities endless for advertisers, who can attract passing audiences, as opposed to targeted, headset-wearing individuals. It opens the opportunity for augmented window displays, experiential marketing suites, and immersive interiors.

For designers, its yet another challenge to grapple with. As technological advancements in AR continue to accelerate, the worlds of set design, architectural pavilions and performance art, have become stages for this kind of future-seeking experimentation. With important artists like Marina Abramović, Anish Kapoor and Nancy Baker Cahill already working at the intersection of art and the augmented world, we await the results of the democratically priced LF1 with anticipation.