The Russian branch of the World Wildlife Fund is raising awareness of the ongoing extermination of the Siberian Tiger by using augmented reality to “shoot” people as they try on clothing in Moscow boutiques.
Imagine this: You’re at the mall, looking over new shirts at your favorite clothing store. You try one on, go to the mirror to see how it looks and KA-BLAM! Somebody empties both barrels into you, splattering blood all over the place and leaving two gaping holes in your chest. But not really: The carnage is entirely on the mirror, and you and your swanky new duds are fine.
It actually happened to customers at some of the “trendiest shops across Moscow,” where the WWF installed special mirrors equipped with webcams and augmented reality setups that were triggered by shirts featuring a stylized image of a tiger. Stepping in front of the mirror while wearing or holding the shirt triggered a surprise gunshot that turned the mirror image of the shirt, and the customer, into a bloody mess.
It’s an idea that’s equal parts awesome and awful, and I can only imagine what would happen if the WWF (or anyone else) pulled a stunt like this here, but according to the narrator in the YouTube video it was a huge hit at home. Russian celebrities got behind the program and “the reaction in the social media and local press showed that [the] campaign worked,” with 200,000 people “saying no to the killing of the Siberian Tiger.” To expand the campaign beyond Moscow, the WWF also launched a site at lookatme.ru/tiger, giving people across the country (and, presumably, around the world) a small taste of what it’s like to be shot down by a poacher.
Gizmodo suggested that only “a few [people] will get the real message” but I’m a little more optimistic. This sort of targeted advertising is aimed at people who are already inclined to purchase and wear WWF-inspired clothing, and who are thus probably more receptive to its message. There will always be the yahoos who just want to email pictures of themselves with a sucking chest wound to their friends, but that’s an unavoidable by-product of any public awareness campaign and overall this one strikes me an effective way to reach a fairly specific demographic group. Startling, violent and disturbing, but effective.
Only in Russia.