The Urballoon consists of a large helium balloon with a video projector and a wireless laptop that projects user-generated content onto public spaces. It floats above its tethers in parks or plazas and displays the video onto the ground, encouraging people to gather around a digital bonfire.
It has been previously shown in New York at Eyebeam (2003, 2007) and in City Hall Park as part of the Spectropolis festival (2004). This year, the Urballoon will be part of the Conflux festival occurring in the city from September 17-20th. With the increasing popularity of smartphones and wireless devices, the Urballoon will feature a new website optimized for mobile devices in order to facilitate live participation from people on the street.
The project was born as a concept of parallel space: an experience of a built environment so intertwined with electronic mediation that it can not be reproduced without technology. Many of these ideas are referenced in films like Blade Runner or by authors such as William J. Mitchell. The work of the artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer has also created a precedent for network-mediated urban spectacle as art. This project seeks to present our online communication back onto the street as a reimagined urban experience, stressing the role that the city has as an interface for daily life.
Visitors to the park or plaza where the installation is located see the balloon hovering and projecting a video slideshow at night. The content includes submitted responses which are shown in real time from a video projector suspended from the Urballoon. Instruction messages and a theme for content are displayed as part of the projections encouraging the audience to also participate by visiting the urballoon.com website from their mobile device or from an on-site laptop connected to the Internet.
From a technical perspective the project consists of a database shared by two websites: a public site used for content submissions by visitors and a projector site used to display the submissions from the balloon installation.