Street With a View

Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about augmented reality. How can digital information be connected with physical objects? How can the spaces between online and offline worlds be bridged? Mostly, these thoughts cluster around object hyperlinking and locative art. Could we, for example, make a “Couchsurfing” for household tools? Or, what about a tour through a city be complemented by audio guides, triggered by GPS to tell stories about a nearby landmark?

A recent project put an interesting spin on AR’s more conventional applications. Instead of generating digital data for later use in meatspace, a community in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania turned the process on its head. They manipulated physical space, so that the digital information could be enhanced.

The neighbors in Pittsburgh gathered in their streets to stage scenes for Google Street View, its cameras swinging by and documenting the local show. The group planned a range of witty, urban “easter eggs” throughout the town; a full marching band on parade, crowds cheering marathon runners, a narrow escape, and an enormous, defeathered chicken plopped on a street corner.


All in all, Street With a View seemed like a clever if silly way to augment digital “reality”. By playing with objects in “real space”, the digital information about that space was altered and enhanced. But perhaps most importantly, the project let the neighborhood show its sense of humor. And who knows, maybe it’ll inspire other towns to take to the street and stage some views of their own? Anyone know if the Google car is heading back to Berlin? (^_^)

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