American fashion brand Forever 21 and advertising agency Space150 have won a Peoples Voice award at the Webby Awards for Augmented Reality. The digital billboard, launched in 2010, featured three models interacting with Times Square’s crowd, taking Polaroid photographs of people on the street, picking them up and kissing them. Some people were turned into frogs, while others were snuck into a hat or dropped into a shopping bag. Using innovative computer vision technology, the models snap pictures of people on the street, then pick them up, kiss them, put them in their bags, and more. The interactions changed constantly, just like Forever 21’s inventory and brand promise.
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The Forever 21 billboard used high-tech surveillance equipment and computer vision technology to identify and map the people, allowing the computer to build a composite image of them in near real-time. this data is then used for the simulation with the virtual model as shown on the 61-foot screen. The computer also had the ability to pick out the yellow Forever 21 shopping bags in a crowd. Those standing below with the shopping bag were more likely to get picked up by the model. The project also included “love tweets”, a live on-screen feed of Twitter messages from fans including the words “Forever 21″ and “Love”. Below the billboard thermal imaging cameras set over the store entrance triggered paparazzi-like flashes when a customer walked through the door.
The project was inspired by Chris O’Shea’s work on Hand from Above, a joint co-commission between FACT: Foundation for Art & Creative Technology and Liverpool City Council for BBC Big Screen Liverpool and the Live Sites Network. It premiered during the inaugural Abandon Normal Devices Festival in 2009.