Lance Armstrong returns to the Tour de France this year, and this time he's brought a robot.
Wieden + Kennedy, Portland, Nike and Armstrong's foundation for people affected by cancer, Livestrong, have created a robot that lets people from anywhere in the world chalk messages of inspiration, hope and encouragement directly on the course of the premier French bicycle race.
Users can submit messages via text message, the campaign website, online banners or Twitter for the chance to be printed on the Tour roads by a street-painting robot, Chalkbot. Wieden's executive interactive producer Marcelino Alvarez and technologist-cum-creative Adam Heathcott say that about 90 percent of the messages that have come through and been approved are from Twitter. And because of Twitter's characteristic character limit, the short Chalkbot messages, averaging less than 40 characters, have been some of the most poignant and well-written. Alvarez and Heathcott are both with the Chalkbot in France--see their photos of the robot and chalk messages in situ at the end of the story.
Once submitted, messages are queued and reviewed and up to 100,000 will be inscribed on the roads that make up the course. Approved messages are sent to the Chalkbot, which was developed in partnership with Pittsburgh-based mobile software design company DeepLocal and StandardRobot. Like a giant dot-matrix printer on wheels, Chalkbot sprays a liquid chalk mixture onto pieces of road about eight hours ahead of the Tour bikers. The person who originally submitted the message will then receive a link to a robot-captured photo of the chalk design along with its GPS coordinates as a record of their words in the physical world. Nathan Martin, CEO of DeepLocal, introduces the project and explains how Chalkbot works in the videos below.
Chalkbot Intro Video