A group of creative individuals ("researchers?"..."hackers?"..."vandals?") from the Netherlands have discovered how to use a laser to write 100-foot-tall letters on the sides of buildings.
They're called the Graffiti Research Lab, and they seem like they have very cool jobs. Here's their "mission statement":
"The Graffiti Research Lab is dedicated to outfitting graffiti writers, artists and protesters with open source tools for urban communication. The goal of the G.R.L. is to technologically empower individuals to creatively alter and reclaim their surroundings from commercial and corporate culture. G.R.L. agents are currently working in the lab and in the field to develop and test a range of experimental technologies for the state-of-the-art graffiti writer." (from graffitiresearchlab.com)
From the multitudes of videos on their site, they look like kids, but this isn't exactly kid's play. Not only have they created some extremely unique applications based on modern technology, they also use it for a purpose.
For one thing, they have invented a Laser Tag System, which is basically a bunch of portable gear that they haul around on bikes throughout various cities of the world, sharing their knowledge with other artists and writers, and making political statements.
The Laser Tag System looks fairly simple. A camera hooked up to a laptop tracks a laser pointer as you wave it across a building façade. The laptop generates graphics based on the laser's position, which then gets projected back onto the building with a high-power projector with a 60mW green laser ("super illegal in a lot of places and very dangerous").
If you're really interested in doing this, you can even download the full instructions and source code at this page, thanks to their open source policy.
Or if you just want to see the kinds of stuff the GRL does, you can check out all their projects on their site graffitiresearchlab.com. (I had some trouble watching some of the videos, but maybe that's just my computer.)
Anyway, their portfolio includes performances such as supporting Gov. Rod Blagoevich's attempt to impeach Dick Cheney in NYC, and making displays such as "Make Throwies Not Bombs." They also claim that they've built a laser that can put a hole in a sheet of metal from several miles away-which is what some governments are aiming to do in the next 10 years.
And they even did a laser tag show once to raise some bail money for their friend Avone, who was facing charges of vandalism for his work. I'd guess that these kinds of criminal charges will be something they'll have to face more of in the future, especially as they get followers.
But as most of this stuff seems like peaceful demonstrations (not to mention that it doesn't look like it does any permanent damage), I'd guess people would stand up for them. Just don't point that thing in someone's eye, ok?
All images from Graffiti Research Lab. Via New Scientist Tech.