The Selfiebration created by DeepLocal for Old Navy.

Pittsburgh innovation studio, Deeplocal, created a new twist to the balloons and birthdays theme. Call it an inflated sense of selfie.

Combining the pop culture selfie craze and a birthday party staple, the Selfiebration Machine was designed and constructed by Deeplocal for Old Navy to honor the retailer’s 20th birthday. It was parked in New York City’s Times Square on October 22 and near Los Angeles’ TCL Chinese Theater on October 25 for eight hours at each location.

Selfies, sent by well-wishers via Twitter and captured by Deeplocal-designed software, were transformed into digitized photos made up of nearly 1,000 customized latex balloons on a 15-by-15-foot structure.

The balloons, divided among 16 identical “balloon boxes,” inflated simultaneously with each capture, thanks to almost five miles of wiring and a pneumatic valving system built by Deeplocal engineers, explains CEO Nathan Martin.

The device is capable of showing two selfies a minute.

“Fun is intrinsic to Old Navy’s DNA, and the smiles from the wonder and amazement were so rewarding. That said, the reaction in social really blew us away,” says Taylor Bux, director of digital/social for Old Navy.

Displaying about 2,000 images, last week’s participation far exceeded Deeplocal’s goals, says Martin.

“We generated 640 million impressions on Twitter alone; #selfiebration was used over 17 thousand times,” says Bux.

Concept through creation to going live took just eight weeks.

A mix of about 20 artists and engineers, Deeplocal began in 2006 when Martin, then a research fellow at Carnegie Mellon University, led mapping software research work. Since then Deeplocal has crafted concepts and the technology to produce national campaigns for the likes of Nike, Gap, Toyota and others.

“We come up with the ideas to generate news coverage and attention without the client paying for it to help promote the brand for the company,” says Martin.

And most projects, he says, are typically done for less than the cost of a television commercial.

A 2013 campaign for Google grabbed the attention of the Today Show, ESPN and more when the company designed a telepathic robotic pitcher with a vision system. The project allowed Nick LaGrande, a 13-year-old whose rare blood disease prevented him from being in crowds, to virtually pitch a ball through Google’s Fiber network from a studio in Kansas City to an Oakland A’s home game in California.

Laurie Bailey

Laurie Bailey is a freelance writer who has reported for many local publications. When she isn't writing she serves as a media consultant for nonprofits and other local companies.