The End of Billboards

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Augmented reality, the process of overlaying digital information atop real life vision, seems inevitable to me given the recent direction and pace of technology – the proliferation of smartphones, location-based services, 3D TVs, etc.

Actually, it’s already here. Layar (fig. 1) is a crazy augmented reality browser, available on Android and iPhone, that uses a phone’s camera and superimposes dynamic, sortable content in real time.  Another example comes from the Museum of London, which launched a free iPhone app (fig. 2) that blankets its historical art and photography library atop your view.

[fig. 1: Layar, via Mobile Crunch]

[fig. 2: Museum of London app, via LikeCool]

I recently started to think about how this would play out for driving. I don’t think it’s that far off before GPS augmentation becomes a feature in cars, with special touchscreen windshields capable of displaying semi-transparent turn-by-turn directions on top of the road as you drive.

It’s not hard to imagine what comes next: superimposed ads, like a McDonald’s logo that grows progressively larger as you approach the store. One might even be able to tap out an order a mile in advance to speed up the drive-thru process.

It may sound scary, but I tend to be one to look for the upside of these things. In this case, I feel this could at long last mark the death of the billboard. With ads streaming directly into cars, there would presumably no longer be a need to have those clunky eyesores blocking the view across cities and along interstates. We could at last tear those suckers down.

But at the end of the day we’ll just be trading a physical eyesore for a virtual one. My jury is still deliberating over whether or not that is any better.  What do you think? Is it worth it to rid skylines of physical billboards, or will it make no difference once the ads are permanently beamed into our line of sight?

Artist Keiichi Matsuda provides an awesome, but dreary picture of what this future might look like, taken to its logical extreme:

[Augmented (hyper)Reality: Domestic Robocop from Keiichi Matsuda on Vimeo]

Cool or scary?

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Posted on June 2nd 2010 in ideas, news, OrgWatch

Maps That Changed the World

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Since I love maps, I suggest you check out this Maps That Changed the World piece from the Daily Mail.

Google Earth is rightly among them, but most are historical maps that represent breakthrough events for mankind.  Here is a preview of my favorites (click to view larger image):

You gotta love propaganda.  ”Be On Guard” was early pro-Bolshevik propaganda that highlighted the European threat and helped to define the Soviet identity.

The Henricus Martellus World Map (circa 1490) was allegedly used by Columbus and one of the earliest to depict a round earth on a flat surface.  Note the absence of the Americas.

America finally shows up in the Waldseemuller Map (circa 1509), though it’s looking pretty scrawny.  It is here officially named after the navigator Amerigo Vespucci.

This 1889 descriptive map of London’s poverty may have been the precursor to geographic information systems.  Black is the poorest, gold is the wealthiest.

The London Tube Map of 1933 was the first to place stops at regular intervals for easy reading, thus saying “screw it” to the idea of maintaining scale.  This ultimately explains why Manhattan keeps getting fatter in the ever-evolving NYC subway map.

Be sure to check out the rest of the maps here.  Which is your favorite?

[All image credits to the British Library via The Daily Mail]

[Props: Freakonomics]

Posted on May 28th 2010 in Artful Impact

Think Social, Drink Local

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I was asked to put together this promo for Think Social, Drink Local 2010, NYU Stern‘s hottest party of the year, hosted by the Social Enterprise Association:

This year’s party is Friday, March 5th at the historic Altman Building.  It features four hours of open bar provided by local and eco spirit sponsors, raffles and giveaways donated by local social entrepreneurs, and an eco-fashion show outfitted by local sustainable designers.

Be sure to check out all the sponsors:

  • Crop Organic Vodka offers USDA Certified Organic, artisanal (like cucumber) vodkas
  • Brooklyn Brewery, NYC’s biggest local brewer, currently has 16 different beers
  • c. marchuska makes chic and sustainable clothing at affordable prices
  • Garbage of Eden ‘upcycles’ plastics from around New York City to design accessories
  • Recession Rags opts against producing new cloth and forages the city’s garment districts looking for unused vintage fabrics
  • Posture Magnetic makes quality design using sustainable methods of production and transportation
  • Alternative Apparel employs strict ethical labor and environmental guidelines for choosing vendors throughout the supply chain
  • Indego Africa returns 100% of profits from sales of Fair Trade handicrafts to its artisan partners AND invests in long-term skills development
  • Mociun delivers sustainable jewelry
  • Tribal Societe sources jewelry and clothing from artisans throughout the developing world, and donates a portion of sales to the Global Fund for Women
  • Edun is building a community-based value chain in the production of its clothing, with a focus on Africa
  • Green Apple Cleaners dry cleans using Liquid CO2, a method that is highly regarded as the most benign to human health and the environment
  • Green Map provides a collaborative mapmaking platform to let communities around the world promote their local sustainability
  • Peeled Snacks uses only high-quality natural and organic ingredients in its fruit and nut snacks, available in many stores.  You may have seen them at Starbucks
  • Nunu Chocolates makes totally natural, handmade-to-order chocolates out of Brooklyn

Posted on February 16th 2010 in events, OrgWatch

OrgWatch: ShotSpotter targets gunshots with acoustic sensors

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ShotSpotter does pretty much what it’s name implies, but spots via sound.  It’s pretty impressive:

I was originally introduced to this idea by someone at Tactical Philanthropy, who was investing in the technology and spoke about it at NYU’s 2009 Annual Satter Conference on Social Entrepreneurs.

People will claim that, even with these sensors to identify the location of gunshots, the shooters will likely have fled the scene before responders can arrive.  The National Institute of Justice concedes in a report that it is unlikely to lead to more arrests. However, there have been a success stories here and there.

The real long-term benefit, though, is strategic.  Aside from the potential to have quicker response time and even arrests in a few cases, the data itself might help to give a much realer picture of the level of crime some of our cities are facing.  The aforementioned report states that only a dismal 23% of gunshots are ever reported.  Getting these things down on maps and into data models will be a good step towards better law enforcement.

My biggest concern is that police, knowing that a gun is in their vicinity, may get itchier trigger fingers.  But that is an issue of management and discipline, and one we should be constantly perfecting nonetheless.

Posted on January 21st 2010 in OrgWatch

OrgWatch: Ushahidi map-tweets Haiti’s disaster

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Following up on earlier map thoughts, check out what Ushahidi has been doing:

[What is Ushahidi? from Ushahidi on Vimeo]

As mobile communiques become more routine than going to the bathroom, it becomes easy to see how important they will become in coordinating relief in disaster areas.  Ushahidi is already at work in Haiti, tracking collapsed buildings, locating trapped and missing people, and sharing the location of relief services.

Our thoughts are with the people of Haiti; may the response be swift.

Posted on January 14th 2010 in news, OrgWatch
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