Creating an interactive projection floor for Canon Canada’s headquarters showroom using Unity

The Challenge

Create an augmented reality experience in a showroom entrance hall using Canon projectors and interactivity

The Project

This was a student-led research and development project out of Sheridan College, directed by Interaction Design professor Steve Hudak in collaboration with Canon Canada.

It uses two projectors, keystoned and blended together, to paint a living carpet of cherry blossoms gently swaying on a layer of grass. Canon has a deep brand identity in nature and the environment. Creating an entryway of cherry blossoms brings to life visions of Japan at springtime, paying homage to Canon’s birthplace.

Creating an interactive projection installation was an experiment in exploration for the entire team. There were a series of interesting challenges that forced us to think creatively to find solutions. There was no pre-planned roadmap: should we use TouchDesigner? Unity? Something else entirely?

The original idea was a complex, multi-stage experience. As time and technological constraints challenged feasibility, the project shifted to a simpler yet still thematic concept. Rather than expect direct user action, the experience became more about creating a natural, passive atmosphere that happened to the user.

The blossoms were modelled in Cinema 4D. Sprites of those models were used to create a particle system in Unity. Those blossom particles interact with player locations using data from two mounted Kinects.

Screenshot of interactivity process in Unity
Photo of a person standing on the blossoms
Screenshot of Kinect computer vision
Photo of the Sheridan lab with setup

Role

The Canon projection floor was an excellent example of collaboration. The team was made up of Interaction Design students with a range of skillsets, including 3D modelling, projection mapping, game design, front-end development, and user experience. A separate team developed a smartphone AR experience with cherry blossoms floating in the air. This grouping of diverse talents created a great environment for creative thinking.

I focused on overall art direction of the projection floor, from research to working prototype. My key functional role was in handling Unity environment design while working closely with the team’s Unity developer, Ben Reimer. The success of this project is due significantly to Ben's tireless effort, but I enjoyed helping troubleshoot development issues when they popped up.

My top accomplishment was building the cherry blossom particle system and its interaction behaviour in Unity. A rewarding achievement was coming up for a solution to create a “kicking” effect if the blossoms were hit at high user velocity. Instead of hardcoding responsive physics, which was beyond our time constraints, I crafted a Unity-only fix. If moving at high velocity, the user object sprays a quick burst of temporary new blossom particles opposite the direction of the velocity. This additional 'fake-out' particle system creates the illusion that fast moving objects ‘kick’ existing blossoms with real physics.

Photo of the Sheridan lab with setup

This project, which is still in development, was made possible by the contributions of many Sheridan designers:

Steve Hudak (Project Lead)
Ben Reimer (Floor UX, Unity Developer)
Aaron Campbell (Floor UX, Projection Technician)
Josh Baptista (TouchDesigner)
Luca Scarci (Cherry Blossom Model)
Lucas Di Monte (AR UX, WebARCore Developer)
Kaspar So (AR UX, WebARCore Developer)