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Saturday, 3 November, 2001, 08:49 GMT
New Yorkers turn to cyber bar
The Remote Lounge
Give us your privacy when you enter the bar
By BBC Click Online's Ian Hardy in New York

Usually it is just the beer that's on tap in a bar, but in Manhattan a new night spot called The Remote Lounge offers a non-stop stream of images, videos and messages as you drink.

The concept is incredibly simple: hand over your privacy at the front door and enter a world where anyone anywhere can follow your every move.

Manipulate the cameras with a joystick
Manipulate the cameras with a joystick
Just by going in the front door, a visitor to The Remote Lounge becomes part of a multi-layered cyberspace experience.

Anyone can communicate with anyone else using 77 circuits, more than 120 TV monitors and tiny cameras that are everywhere.

"It's a real icebreaker," says Leo Fernekes, one of the men behind The Remote Lounge, "because naturally you end up surfing the channel and you see someone's face there.

"You send them a message and the next thing you know is you're on the phone actually conversing with them, and the obvious step after that is you meet them at the bar."

Extremely popular

Using a joystick and channel selector it is possible to see through and manipulate every camera in the room.

When you find someone you like the look of, you press a button to ask them if they want to chat. The concept was developed from a mix of instant messaging and reality TV, both becoming extremely popular in the last few years.

Send a message to someone you like
Send a message to someone you like
But the designers also realised they had to build in tried and tested technology to make it a seamless social experience. The result is a very stable system that is unlikely to crash.

"Some of my friends have called us the digital bar and in fact I call it the analogue bar because a lot of the technology is analogue and that's one of the reasons that we think it works very well," says Kevin Centanni, another of the partners in The Remote Lounge.

The bar has proved so popular that at one point Microsoft and Apple were apparently fighting to be the first to hold a party there for their clients.

Instant fashion

Others have found novel uses for the image-drenched environment. Fashion shows seem particularly well suited to multi-camera coverage.

"Using this space means I can bring the people in, instantaneously design couture with them, get them photographed and immediately their catwalk photo appears on the screens around them so everyone in the bar sees the star that they are," says Mary Jo Diehl, fashion designer with the House of Diehl.

Kevin Centanni
Centanni: Photos direct to the website
In a city that has a revolving door of new attractions, it is important to keep customers coming back. The bar's website promotes the bar and vice versa. And most people are turning up out of sheer curiosity.

"Right now there's a button on each of the consoles that has an icon of a camera on it, and whenever you press that button it grabs a photo from whatever channel you happen to be watching at the time and it sends that photo immediately to the website," says Kevin Centanni.

"We've had people who have come over from Europe and have called on their mobile phones back home to their friends and said 'hey I'm in this bar go check out the website' and when they press the button their friends back home will be able to see that."

The very public nature of the bar means that for a few hours guests have to be willing to be photographed and recorded without inhibition.

"You give up the privacy but in exchange you gain that all-seeing perspective that people really seem to enjoy. So it's a trade off," says Leo Fernekes.

Click Online is on BBC World on Thursday at 2230, Friday at 1030, 1430 and 2030, Saturday at 0730, 1430 and 1930 and on Sunday at 1030. All times GMT.

See also:

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