A word of warning for anyone who's thinking about visiting New York's new, state-of-the-art linear park The High Line: you'd better dress for the occasion. In order to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Project Runway (returning to Lifetime on Thursday at 9 p.m.), Nexus Interactive Arts is building an interactive display between 15th and 16th Streets; passers-by will see Heidi Klum, Michael Kors and Tim Gunn, as large as life on a set of huge 7.3-meter-wide LCD monitors. And if you walk by wearing something stylish, they'll get excited about it.
It's an outdoor ad approach that's bound to attract imitators over the next few years: an offsite operator (a student from Tisch) will crank the excitement levels of the three judges up or down, depending on how mod your outfit is. "In the right-hand corner [of the operator's monitor], it basically has a traffic feed out onto the street," explained Nexus' executive producer on the project, Luke Ritchie. "Just using the mouse, they can lift up the range of excitement level based on how stylishly dressed the people walking by are." Judges can register disinterest, interest, excitement, or a full-blown standing ovation (that's if they really dig your getup).
These aren't computer-generated models, either; each of the judges shot in a green-screen studio for about an hour so that the programmers could get the various idle states and loops to transition easily from one to another. Using Dijkstra's algorithm (which provides a way to map the shortest point between a set of points), Nexus hasn't just shot the judges looking bored/pleased/ecstatic/orgasmic; the programmers have managed to interpolate between those states so that they can go from gossiping to the judge next to them straight into a standing ovation and back into nodding encouragingly, or any combination thereof—seamlessly. The result, if it works, will look an awful lot like Heidi & co. are behind glass, looking you up and down and appraising your taste, hopefully generously, depending on whether or not the operator in the booth has had coffee yet.
Lifetime, which commissioned the installation, is predictably jazzed about the prospect. "The High Line sort of feels like a natural runway," said the network's vp of marketing, Lisa Ellenbogen, "and we wanted people to have their own runway moments in front of the judges." Ellenbogen is also encouraging: "[Tim Gunn]'s not gonna yell at you. He's not gonna make fun of you."
Ritchie offers a word of warning. "Not everyone is going to be celebrated by Heidi," he said. "You'll really have work at that."
The installation opens Monday, July 16 at noon on the High Line.