Graffiti is often used as tool of expression within Western Society. Since the beginning of time, it has been limited to walls of caves, train lines, buildings, but recently it has seen itself blown into the stratosphere with the likes of Banksy, Reverse Graffiti and digital advertising. Although some may argue that it cannot be categorised as graffiti, companies such like Chanel have embraced this art form, enabling consumers the chance to showcase creativity and communicate messages digitally, yet legally on the streets of New York, London and Paris.
Chanel arguably brought digital graffiti into the mainstream when they developed a ten foot high LED video wall that spanned 90 feet of the boutique’s façade on Wooster Street and 50 feet on Spring Street in New York; massive in the eyes of any advertising agency. The Graffiti Wall, which was used as an interactive application, consisted of a 23-foot wide expanse of video projection screen, onto which guest’s sprayed colourful digital video graffiti from elegant Chanel-branded cans. The central high-resolution core was comprised of 40 Barco Olite10 LED tiles, 380 MI Strips and a custom-fabricated steel chassis. As a result, Chanel was able to directly change people’s immediate perceptions based around the brand, encouraging them to enter into the store, whereas previously they may have felt like they would have been judged by their clothing or how much money they have.
Naturally graffiti is a great way of breaking down barriers, just check out Kinect’s Graffiti application, Graffiti Research Labs (Holland) 3D Projection Mapping and YrWall, who in particular, have made digital graffiti accessible to the masses, after there appearance on Dragons Den in 2010. Since then, they have developed customised interactive walls for Google, MTV, NatWest, Orange and Chevrolet, using infrared spray cans, yet where is this going? What place does graffiti have within our ever popular physical digital world?
Hektor Auto graffiti robot is a classic example of how digital advertising and graffiti can join together to form a powerful advertising campaign. As an interesting extension of the plotter concept, the robot moves around on a canvas, spraying paint to create a scene. Hektor’s light and fragile installation consists of only two motors, toothed belts and a can holder that handles regular spray cans. The can is then moved along a set drawing path, just like how an old plotter or human hand would. The result is something unique, engaging and interactive; just imagine this in your shop window.
Another application is Robotagger, an assistive tool for taggers working in harsh environments, providing long-needed relief for graffiti artists with RSI. The application has the potential to be used in-store to showcase latest twitter updates, like the Talay Robot from Sony, brand messages and even drawings of the latest fashion trends, taking it a step further than Nordstrom successful interactive installation in Seattle 2011. Here several Kinect cameras were installed to allow those walking by the opportunity to play with light and interact with their window display, simply by moving their hands. Viewers were only able to draw simple images and write messages, however maybe this could develop into a way of getting consumers to design the backdrops of retailer’s window displays or give feedback on what they are seeing on the mannequins?
Hence, the origins of graffiti are still relevant within today’s digital society; to communicate feelings, messages and stories to other people, therefore is graffiti advertising and if so, how will the relationship between the two evolve over the next few decades? I can’t wait to find out.
Recently, Clustalabs has been working on analysing voice applications within the advertising realm. A surprising pioneer within this field is Google, who introduced a service called “Ring Back Advertising” in 2009. Here, gaps in telephone calls are replaced with audio messages, a proven success compared to its online equivalent, internet banners. So how does this work?
Users can easily use this application by selecting Google’s voice service to make a call. As a result, Google can find the user’s location through geo-technology and focus their adverts according to their online search history. In addition to advertising, voice has many other applications in games, entertainment, finance, travel and business, as it is often seen as an economically viable, flexible and convenient application.
During Cannes International advertising festival in 2011, Microsoft showcased ‘NUads’, an interactive advertising system based upon the voice application within the Microsoft Kinect. Thought the new Coca Cola advert was cool? Just say "Xbox, Tweet," and all your friends will know it. Want to sample Rihanna’s new album? Say "Xbox, More," and additional information and potential music samples could pop up on screen. Wonder where you can pick up a DFS sofa? Say "Xbox, Near Me," and you'll get a text with the location of the closest retailer. The possibilities in advertising are unless, however how came this evolve into the gaming world?
The market leader in voice application gaming is Labgoo, who recently received much publicity after developing PAH, the world’s first fully voice controlled iPhone game app. At the moment, they are currently developing a Windows 7 and Android version, enabling users the chance to control a spaceship, whilst avoiding asteroids. Shout “Ahh” to move the vehicle up and “Pah” to move it down. The volume of your voice will slide the ship higher or lower and a sharp outburst of “Pah” will fire the nose canons to destroy the asteroids in your way.
PAH and Microsoft Kinect has obviously started to pave the way for voice application software in the future, whether this is through navigating websites and apps, communicating with adverts in malls or even the beginning of voice-reactive advertising; adverts that could potentially hide when you shout at them. Don’t underestimate the power of the spoken word.
Projection Mapping has recently become one of the most effective and popular methods used in advertising to instantly attract consumers towards a brand, like BMW, Ralph Lauren and Samsung. It enables digital designers and architects to map sphere surface technology (projected images) onto three-dimensional objects, such as buildings and sculptures.
To achieve a successful projection, you first need to ensure that there are no trees surrounding the building. Sounds obvious, but you will be surprised by the amount of companies that create incredible moving motion pieces, only to be stumped by a tree that gets in the way. The next stage is to position the projector in the best possible location, ensuring that the selected point remains constant throughout testing and when executing the final show. Once the position has been marked, one can then create the initial grid using horizontal and vertical lines within Adobe Photoshop, before blocking out appropriate areas with easily identifiable colours. Then, in my opinion, the hard work begins.
Transfer the Photoshop image as a JPEG into 3D Max, positioning the plane at 0, 0, 0. Then set the render dimensions to coincide with the plane and final projected image size. Once this is achieved, one can create a targeted camera that can be positioned at the image plane’s origin, before setting the safe frames within the camera view. The camera can then be carefully pulled back so that the edge of the frame matches that of the plane.
After the camera has been locked, model backwards from the image plane before setting the appropriate lighting rig. As a result, one can experiment with transformations, material effects, dynamic animations and rendering, bringing the model to life.
Lastly, remember to save it as a video file, align with the projector and enjoy watching people’s extraordinary expressions as they stare in owe at what you have created. Sounds simple? It is! Though it can take time and definitely requires a wad of cash to get the ball rolling, hence is it really worth it?
In my opinion, projection mapping seems to be used left, right and centre at the moment, meaning that very few actually stand out against the crowd. Nevertheless, two are worth a mention; Ralph Lauren for classically introducing 4D into the notion, using smell to engage with consumers and Hyunda, who combined 3D projection with physical products (car and driver) to transcend the medium into a much more significant form of engagement for consumers. So where will it go from here?
Nowadays, everybody is looking for something new and special; the same came be said for technology. Recently, ClustaLabs carried out some research into printing applications. 3D printers are basically used for the rapid development of industrial models, including razors, buildings and now clothing. The N12 Bikini is an interesting example of how 3D printing is entering into the consumer world. It was designed by Continuum Fashion and has become the first ever affordable, ready-to-wear item of clothing; surely there is more to come. This was produced using Rhino 3D CAD software and a specially written algorithm that creates a complex ‘circle packing ‘equation on an arbitrarily doubly curved surface, providing the flexibility required within the garment. Another printing application that is definitely worth a mention is the Nike Chalkbot, a recent Cannes winner. Naturally this application lends itself more closely to 2D advertising, yet with the ability to print texts, symbols and to be honest, pretty much anything, we are excited about seeing how this concept might evolve in the future.
Several other applications have arose from this relatively simple technology, including one of my favourites; the 3D Chocolate printer. Just like something that you would expect to see in Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory, users will soon be able to create their own pieces of confectionary; designing their own flavours, shapes, colours, anything that there stomach truly desires. Arguably, this was taken one step further with the CandyFab, an open source product that you can generally use within your own home. Although the software and hardware instructions are yet to be released, one is looking forward to tucking into my very own version of the next gob-stopper!
However, my personal favourite is Barcelona's BlablabLab, who piloted an attraction called "Be Your Own Souvenir" in Las Ramblas. The installation produced 3D-printed figurines of tourists that were scanned using 3 Kinect sensors in the dark. As a result, the user became part of the installation, whilst receiving a free gift. Custom software had to be created with open Frameworks in order to produce a full 360 degree point cloud that could then be processed by Meshlab and Skeinforge into a CNC file, creating a low resolution figure within the space of ten minutes. As this technology continues to evolve, it may become an ideal way of producing your own accessories or tailor-fitted clothes, yet with chocolate on the mind, I am going to leave it here for now and get some lunch.
Recently we have been working on two smaller projects, just for fun, that I am able to talk about; a smart toaster and a forecasting umbrella, so let’s start with the umbrella. The idea for the forecasting umbrella was that LEDs within the handle would be used to visually communicate if it is about to rain or snow to their owners. As a result, users would remember to pick up and take their umbrella out with them, yet had this been done before? After much research and deliberation, we felt that the concept was too close to Ambient’s umbrella, priced at £140. Naturally, ClustaLabs was thinking of producing such a product for the likes of Topshop, with a RRP of around £25-30, a more cost-effective and realistic pricing range for consumers. We decided that an Arduino BT (Bluetooth) board was one of two ways in tackling the challenging issue of getting the umbrella to download and display local weather information from the internet, quickly and efficiently.
Another long-term, yet more flexible option was to independently design a board, which included either an ATMega microcontroller or PIC microcontroller that would be programmed using C Language, along with the addition of a Bluetooth module & power supply. Ambient’s current solution is to use pulsating LEDs that indicate the likelihood of rain within the next 12 hours, but it does not go as far as predicting exactly when the event will occur or provide a sufficient enough warning, quickly changing from one setting to the next. Its limited setting solely provide one piece of information; to rain or not to rain, yet what if it snow or hails? Don’t all of these weather conditions warrant a setting? Hence, forewarning the user about the weather conditions that day, along with helping them to decide on what to wear would be a much more desirable solution for the consumer.
A similar conclusion was considered when analysing Robin Southgate’s smart toaster. There have been numerous renditions of this innovative concept over the last ten years, but no one has been able to produce a mainstream product that taps into the online weather system since. Surprisingly, we also came up with endless other possibilities, including developing a registered site where brands could pay to be entered into a lottery to feature on UK’s toast the following day. Just imagine waking up, making toast and seeing the Marmite or Clover logo burnt onto it; what topping would you choose then, Bovril? I doubt it. Hence how could we achieve this?
Our first task was to analyse how the connection between the toaster and advertising website would work. Secondly, how could the toaster randomly print any symbol onto the bread, without the use of stencils? As we discussed previously within the forecasting umbrella project, wireless connection could only be provided from the internet by either creating our own board or by using an Ardunio BT (Bluetooth) board. To print any symbol or writing, laser etching seemed the most plausible solution, as aluminium stencils would not suffice in providing the flexibility that was desired. Both of these concepts have been fully developed into in-house prototypes at ClustaLabs, so if you are interested in finding out more, then please contact me at: Mandana.Ardeshir@clustalabs.com