Artvertising and The Billboard Intercept Unit


Another Julian doing interesting things with computers? Meet Mr.Oliver and his real-time billboard replacements.

Augmented Billboards 2: The Artvertiser @ Transmediale 2010 from Julian Oliver on Vimeo.

They Live!
Indeed, as might be expected from a project that seeks to detect and replace billboards with other imagery in real-time, there is some inspiration expressed on Julian’s site for the great cult classic by John Carpenter, They Live – which features rebel sunglasses as a major plot device ( they decode the ‘real’ message of a billboard when worn ).

Developing the Artvertiser as a software platform that can detect advertisements viewed through a device, and replace them, Julian and Damian Stewart consider their work as an example of ‘Improved Reality’, claiming “The Artvertiser situates the ‘read-only’, proprietary imagery of our public spaces as a ‘read-write’ platform for the presentation of non-proprietary, critically engaging content.”

In practice so far, this seems like it works best within their own custom built device, which they’ve dubbed the Billboard Intercept Unit. Key qualities of that beast include a high-quality wide-angle lens, fast CPU and GPU, powerful wireless adaptor, long battery life and plenty of solid state storage space. Interestingly though they seek to develop versions for Linux, OS X, Google’s Android OS, the Nokia N900 (Maemo 5) and the iPhone and a single shot photo substitution version for the Symbian OS ( used by the great bulk of the world’s camera phones).

The software works by users training it to recognise individual advertisements, which can then be replaced by alternate images or videos. Then whenever that advert is encountered – “It doesn’t matter whether the advertisement is on a building, in a magazine or on the side of a vehicle” – the ad will be replaced within the viewer, by the alternate image or video. If an internet connection is available, the scene and substituted image can be immediately documented and published online, ‘providing an alternative memory of the city’.

See for more, including Escape from Woomera ( a 3D game set inside one of Australia’s refugee detention centres ), Packet Garden ( watch your daily net traffic generate a visual garden ), Levelhead (Augmented Reality spatial-memory game and tangible interface prototype) and Fijuu, his 3D music AV experiments.

( See also, Julian Oliver: The Art of Gardening, a piece I was asked to write for an exhibition of his, many a moon ago. )

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