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QR Code Facade
January 29, 2010 11:35 AM   Subscribe

Behold the N Building, a new structure in a Tokyo shopping district that at first glance looks kind of like a giant Tetris screen until you realize that the fancy geometric design on its facade isn't merely ornamental: It's code—QR code, to be exact. What that code allows passersby to do is quite unique. [via, via]

If a QR Code is static, what could we do with a dynamic device like the iPhone? Our proposed vision of the future is one where the facade of the building disappears, showing those inside who want to be seen. As you press on the characters their comments made on online appear in speech bubbles. You can also browse shop information, make reservations and download coupons. Rather than broadly tagging, we display information specific to the building in a manner in which the virtual (iPhone) serves to enhance the physical (N Building). Our goal is to provide an incentive to visit the space and a virtual connection to space without necessarily being present.from the developers teradadesign and Qosmo
posted by netbros (21 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
From the vimeo link:
Being a commercial building signs or billboards are typically attached to its facade which we feel undermines the structures' identity. As a solution we thought to use a QR Code as the facade itself. By reading the QR Code with your mobile device you will be taken to a site which includes up to date shop information.
Is that Tokyo shopping district so much like Times Square, where buildings are just carriers for adverts? I can't imagine that it is, otherwise a giant black and white building would get lost in the noise of moving color displays. So instead of "undermining the structural identity" with billboards, they gave it all away as a gimmick whose time may well be limited (I realize it's big stuff in Japan, but it seems Japan moves on pretty quickly).
posted by filthy light thief at 11:41 AM on January 29, 2010


(Regardless: interesting stuff, thanks!)
posted by filthy light thief at 11:41 AM on January 29, 2010


The thing about a billboard is that you can't help but see it if you're looking at it. I would welcome the replacement of billboards by grey and black QR codes, which only revealed their message when a special device was pointed at them, since then I could just—not point the device at them.
posted by kenko at 11:46 AM on January 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


Our proposed vision of the future is one where the facade of the building disappears, showing those inside who want to be seen. As you press on the characters their comments made on online appear in speech bubbles. You can also browse shop information, make reservations and download coupons.

It definitely looks cool, but, as is often the case with design projects of this kind, I feel like I'm missing something fundamental here. What is it that this innovative facade allows you to do that, say, having a really comprehensive website about the building wouldn't? Or is the whole idea that the facade provides a link to the building website so you can experience the physical and virtual reality of the building simultaneously?

Our goal is to provide an incentive to visit the space and a virtual connection to space without necessarily being present.

But fundamentally this still only applies if you're standing outside the building looking at it. More along these lines, I think, would be an immersive online environment that gives someone the experience of being inside the building regardless of their physical location and/or a series of these QR-coded digital entry-points spaced throughout the building which serve to augment the physical experience of being there.
posted by albrecht at 11:57 AM on January 29, 2010


This building loses a lot of its utility if other buildings do a similar motif. The success of the concept is predicated on its novelty and uniqueness. On the other hand, even if other buildings have signs and billboards, a unique and interesting billboard will still stand out.
posted by explosion at 11:59 AM on January 29, 2010


I believe advertisers are looking for ways to make their ads less noticeable, as evidenced by the lack of advertising on the internet.
posted by blue_beetle at 12:00 PM on January 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


That's really neat - it reminds me of the billboards from They Live, where the true message can only be seen through the right lens.
posted by Graygorey at 12:14 PM on January 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


Graygorey: "That's really neat - it reminds me of the billboards from They Live, where the true message can only be seen through the right lens."

My prediction: "augmented reality" billboards and such are going to lead to some really hilarious hacking projects. Ten years from now there will be newsfilter posts about various trademark infringement cases where Anonymous made scripts that replace the augmented-reality GoogleAppleTimeWarnerFox Store facades with whatever the equivalent of goatse is, etc.
posted by Drastic at 12:30 PM on January 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


The thing about a billboard is that you can't help but see it if you're looking at it. I would welcome the replacement of billboards by grey and black QR codes, which only revealed their message when a special device was pointed at them, since then I could just—not point the device at them.

Thanks to the miraculous acceleration of technology development, we techies already have access to devices like that. In the trade we call them eyes.
posted by Sys Rq at 12:32 PM on January 29, 2010


Graygorey beat me here and ruined my impending They Live joke.

Bastard.
posted by rokusan at 12:45 PM on January 29, 2010


Of course that's what they say their QR code does.

It could just as easily tell your OS, "Why yes, I'd like to download 57 flavors of spyware and transfer the entire contents of my checking account to the national retirement fund for barcode programmers. Why do you ask?"
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 12:51 PM on January 29, 2010


Again we see the "let's replace a cheap simple device, with an expensive complicated new one" meme rear it's ugly head. Seems like you could just as easily register buildings by GPS coordinates and have your phone tell you what's around (which Google and lots of other apps already do), without having to mark the building in any particular way. Also, not being able to identify a building without a secondary device is kind of a basic fail.
posted by doctor_negative at 1:02 PM on January 29, 2010


According to the wikipedia page, QR-code signage is more common in Japan than in the US. Here, it's virtually non-existant. So the novelty isn't the use of QR-code, it's the scale.
posted by muddgirl at 2:13 PM on January 29, 2010


This is pretty neat. QR codes haven't really taken off here. I'm a little sad that Nokia doesn't make a QR code reader for Maemo like they do for Symbian.

Kid Charlemagne wrote: "It could just as easily tell your OS, "Why yes, I'd like to download 57 flavors of spyware and transfer the entire contents of my checking account to the national retirement fund for barcode programmers. Why do you ask?""

Not really, they can only hold enough data for a bare URL. I suppose if you could find a browser exploit for a mobile and the user had saved their bank or other sensitive passwords in it there might be a problem.
posted by wierdo at 3:04 PM on January 29, 2010


I don't see the point of banging a QR code onto a building when there's already technology out there that can do pretty much the same without the QR code.
posted by seanyboy at 3:28 PM on January 29, 2010


QRCodes are brilliant long-range implementations of near-field communications. They're beautifully reconfigurable, which passive RFID is not. Digital cameras are awesome, cheap readers.

I developed a similar system for my MA thesis project (Tagtracker,which people didn't get in 2003), then found out a Japanese company had done a better job of. I capitulated and made a firefox plugin instead, which lets you embed codes as you browse or print pages - SCANDOT. Self links, but maybe they'll be of use or interest to you!

Thanks for the post, netbros!
posted by davemee at 3:57 PM on January 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


can...can...can you use it to summon the Mouse Army?
posted by toodleydoodley at 3:59 PM on January 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


Seems like you could just as easily register buildings by GPS coordinates and have your phone tell you what's around (which Google and lots of other apps already do), without having to mark the building in any particular way.
posted by doctor_negative at 2:02 PM on January 29 [+] [!]


Yeah, but how is registering a building with GPS simpler and less complicated than this? I mean, GPS and integration with mapping systems seem quite complicated compared to a banner or a neon sign. Sure, it's still late 90's tech, but come on, it's pretty danged complicated.
posted by Barry B. Palindromer at 4:05 PM on January 29, 2010


muddgirl is right, QR codes are everywhere here. Literally. They're on the back of movie tickets, on the wrappers of candy bars. Think of how many products in the states have the website of the company on the box/wrapper. It's like that here, but with QR codes. To some extent, I think they're a bit more useful, to be honest. How many people actually visit a website from a candy bar wrapper? But there you are, sitting on the train, nothing to do, and you've just had a snickers. You take your phone, scan the code, and there you are.
posted by Ghidorah at 6:28 PM on January 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


That building's out in the western Tokyo suburbs, near Yokota Air Base. So doing something like this is probably easier given the lower cost of real estate and advertising and such.

BTW, here's the official press release (with photos).
posted by armage at 9:19 PM on January 31, 2010


This is pretty neat. I'm always a bit saddened we haven't adopted QR codes here in the states. It seems to have both art and commerce applications and we're missing out.
posted by chairface at 9:11 AM on February 21, 2010


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