Digital graffiti makes a mark

In its nascent stage, digital technologies seemed to excel at redirecting people away from the physical environment and into the digital universe. But now, with technologies like motion sensors and other human computing interfaces, people are able to share messages and art in their environment by digitally spraying graffiti with (or without) a mobile “aerosol” on their physical surroundings, and re-engage with their physical environments in entirely new ways. Digital graffiti breaks through the constraints of the physical environment, opens up a kaleidoscopic of new possibilities for people to interact with their surroundings, and demonstrates a crossroads where the physical environment and digital world can potentially meet for exciting opportunities.

Thanks to these new technologies, this digital magic can be performed in a natural and intuitive way. When users can add a layer of their own color to the environment and create an augmented reality experience, a more intimate relationship between people and their surroundings emerges.

One handy digital graffiti tool is an Android app called DroidSpray, which lets people use the camera on their phones to capture the surroundings around them. Users can also select a specific GPS location using digital maps and search for other users’ graffiti masterpieces that may be nearby them. Once they have decided on a location, they can create a virtual wall and start using an “aerosol can” by simply moving their phones along the “wall” to paint on it. At the end, if you are pleased with your graffiti creation, you have the option of sharing it with your friends, or simply smashing the virtual wall to start over.

Digital graffiti has also been employed at major events like the Olympics. During the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games in Vancouver, a digital graffiti wall was set up in the Athletes’ Village, and digital artists like Chairman Ting painted real-time art works for athletes and their friends and families. The interactive digital graffiti wall was supplied by Tangible Interaction, and companies like Heineken and Converse have utilized similar walls for interactive promotional events.

Toyota harnessed digital graffiti on a much larger scale in October 2009 to promote its Prius Experience iPhone app. In addition to playing games and learning facts about the Prius through the iPhone app, users were encouraged to draw for the environmentally-themed Prius advertisements that were broadcast on a Times Square digital billboard in New York. Thus, user-submitted digital graffiti was utilized to not only create buzz about the new Prius car and app, but also to power a full-scale advertising initiative in one of the most highly-publicized locations in the world.

Encompassing new forays like digital graffiti, the digital out-of-home advertising has been a sector that has seen consistent growth in the past couple years and is poised for more significant growth in the coming years. Emerging digital and mobile technologies like accelerometers and motion sensors, and new human computing interfaces have turned our physical environment into a canvas for our daily lives. They let us take an active role in shaping and creating the environment rather than being passive witnesses to it, opening up worlds of virtual and tangible possibilities.