“The Artvertiser is a software platform for replacing billboard advertisements with art in real-time. It works by teaching computers to ‘recognise’ individual advertisements so they can be easily replaced with alternative content, like images and video.
Rather than refering to this as a form of Augmented Reality technology, we consider The Artvertiser an example of Improved Reality.
The project was initiated by Julian Oliver in February 2008 and has been developed in collaboration with Damian Stewart andArturo Castro (Android port/rewrite). It has appeared in full working form in street exhibitions in Berlin as part of Transmediale2010, in Brussels for the Europe wide Media Facades Festival, in four inner-city walks during Rotterdam’s Image Festival and in Helsinki as part of an M-CULT public event and workshop.
The Artvertiser is also a free-software project and runs on Linux, Windows, OS X and Android systems.
The Artvertiser considers Puerta del Sol Madrid, Times Square New York, Shibuya Tokyo and other sites dense with advertisements as potential exhibition space. An instrument of conversion and reclamation, 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.
The Artvertiser software is trained to recognise individual advertisements, each of which become a virtual ‘canvas’ on which an artist can exhibit images or video when viewed through the hand-held device. We refer to this as Product Replacement.
After training, when ever the advertisement is exposed to the device, the chosen art will appear instead. It doesn’t matter whether the advertisement is on a building, in a magazine or on the side of a vehicle.
If an internet connection is present at the site, the substitution can be immediately documented and published in on line galleries such as Flickr and YouTube, providing an alternative memory of the city.
While offering itself as a new platform for public art, The Artvertiser seeks to highlight the contradiction of Public Space in the context of what can and cannot be written on the surface of our cities.
By leveraging the internet as a redistribution mechanism, The Artvertiser supposes that an urban site dense with proprietary imagery can be re-purposed as an exhibition space for art and archived as such in turn. Similarly, on-site exhibitions can be held whereby pedestrians are invited to use the looking device to view an exhibition on the buildings around them.
Finally, non-live video can also be used. This enables artists to ‘product replace’ advertisements in film and video with alternative content and redistribute those movies with friends or using their favourite peer to peer network.
A third method of interception has been theorised by Julian and Danja Vasiliev, involving realtime Man-In-The-Middle attacks on a wireless computer network and subsequent alteration of streaming video. This will be developed at some point soon.
The Artvertiser has received development funding from Intermediae.
The software is stable and works quite well. Currently it runs only on The Artvertiser’s own digital binoculars, Android devices and netbooks/laptops with webcams. Developers are invited to download the code and help improve it
The Artvertiser targets three classes of device:
- Billboard Intercept Unit:
This device guarantees high-quality immersive advertisement substitution and is be more performant for AR applications than any hand-held device currently available; equipped with a high-quality wide-angle lens, fast CPU and GPU, powerful wireless adaptor, long battery life and plenty of solid state storage space. You can see The Billboard Interception Unit at work in the below videos.
A page of the original concept art by Julian can be seen here.
We currently have a working version for the Android OS.
- Standard Camera phones:
The great bulk of the world’s camera phones run the Symbian OS. We are drafting up a version of The Artvertiser to provide ‘single shot’ photo substitution.