VIRTUAL STREET STYLE: One of the Bowery’s busier corners, Houston Street, has a continually changing attraction thanks to the free app Walltime.
Banksy, Janelle Monáe and A$AP Rocky are among the talent who have had their videos beamed on the wall there. Users can tune in remotely to watch it via live webcams and listen to synched soundtracks on iPhones. But Walltime can also be used to share Vimeo or YouTube videos on walls anywhere in the world. Live since January, the Walltime app is a new way to bring virtual content into a public space. Cofounder and chief executive officer Alex S. Vandoros said, “It adds what we believe is a new dimension to social media and audio visual content. Anybody can see anything on their iPhone. But there’s not really a platform out there that puts together virtual cloud-based content and actual walls — or other outdoor assets.”
Monáe’s new music video, “Pynk,” was teased last week downtown with a “sort of hush-hush release.” The app’s dual function allows people to listen to high-quality audio in synch with the projection. Not long ago while having dinner nearby at Cherche Midi, Atlantic Records executives happened to see A$AP Rocky screening a video that attracted a sizable crowd.
Last month Banksy’s team reached out to Walltime to schedule a video to supplement the politically charged mural he painted on the Bowery Houston wall. The work raised awareness for Turkish artist Zehra Dogan who is imprisoned for painting a watercolor she saw in a newspaper. “I got an e-mail from Banksy’s people a few weeks ago. I thought it was a joke because the guy is so elusive,” Vandoros said. “Banksy actually paid for Walltime, which sounds absurd. It must have offended every fiber of his pure existence. That’s what the guy’s about — he puts stuff on walls without asking. But he’s a professional like everybody else. He has a publicist, an office and several people working for him. I have a lot of admiration for him in general and that he uses his notoriety and fame for a good cause.”
Rather than advertise its app and technology, Walltime has been letting people learn about it by seeing it or by word-of-mouth. There are plans to expand to other fixed locations such as Harlem and West Chelsea, and to do one-night only type events with property owners. The app also has a featured content function where charities, athletes or others can download their videos to the app and invited followers to book it for them through crowdfunding. “Basically, we’re trying to synthesize prime real estate, technology and people through social media to bring it together,” said Vandoros, adding that sometimes Walltime shows videos submitted by people for free. “I’ve been turning a lot of ads down because I don’t want to go in that direction. Advertisers want to book it for several nights in row. We hardly show any advertising.”
The technology also works with electronic billboards or can be looped into outdoor advertising that is LED screen-based. “Any digital display can be connected to our system. The Bowery location is the first one. It’s more like an outdoor editorial than an outdoor ad. Were still waiting to see what it’s going to morph into. It’s not an advertising platform. In simple terms, it’s a way for individuals, artists and also causes to access public exposure which has to date only been available to large brands,” Vandoros said. “The border between causes, charity, advertising, sponsored artwork — it all converges in a way.”