iPad artists adbust with augmented reality

During a Times Square art project earlier this year, viewers trained their iPads on various billboards and were rewarded with virtual reworkings of the ads.

Edward Moyer Senior Editor
Edward Moyer is a senior editor at CNET and a many-year veteran of the writing and editing world. He enjoys taking sentences apart and putting them back together. He also likes making them from scratch. ¶ For nearly a quarter of a century, he's edited and written stories about various aspects of the technology world, from the US National Security Agency's controversial spying techniques to historic NASA space missions to 3D-printed works of fine art. Before that, he wrote about movies, musicians, artists and subcultures.
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The real-world ad is in the background. The augmented-reality artwork appears on the iPad. Video by Will Sherman. Screenshot by Edward Moyer/CNET

Here's an interesting iPad-equipped, augmented-reality twist on adbusting and culture jamming.

Responding to my recent post about a mural "restored" using a giant QR code, CNET reader victoria_ro pointed to an ongoing project by the New York-based Public Ad Campaign and its Left Coast compatriot The Heavy Projects.

The project, which surfaced in New York's Times Square earlier this year, is dubbed the Augmented Reality Advertising Takeover, or AR | AD, and it "uses augmented reality to transform, filter, and democratize the messaging in public space"--to quote the intro to a video that documents the effort (you'll find the film embedded below).

A clutch of artists create works that appear when viewers toting iPads or other smart mobile devices train their gadgets on given ads. A setup using Junaio's augmented-reality technology, which can recognize images, spies a particular ad and serves up the appropriate art piece.

As you'll see from the movie, it's a cool effect ("magical," a certain recently deceased tech visionary might say). The project is also interesting given that augmented reality is being pushed to advertisers (indeed, brands like McDonald's have experimented with the Junaio technology).

So, how long before hackers start adbusting augmented ads, beaming in their own digital imagery and messages?

(In the case of augmented-reality ads triggered by QR codes, low-tech culture jammers could already do something like this--simply by pasting their own QR codes over the company-created ones and directing the viewer's device to display whatever the adbusters wanted. It would be a twist on the mural fix mentioned earlier.)

You can read more about AR | AD here. And you can watch a film about the New York Street Advertising Takeover, a nondigital precursor to the project, here (see if you can spot the iPad billboard).