Augmented Buildings and Physical Infographics

I was really excited by the following graphic from MoMA that I found in an email. Hopefully by the time you read this you can still see the pretty Flash graphic here.

Summer At MoMA Graphic

MoMA Block Graphic

Colors change and the text refreshes with the name of the next installation taking up each cube of space on the big block of MoMA’s facade. Big deal right. It is a colored graphic of a simplified version of the MoMA building. It isn’t singing you a song. The inspiring nugget for me is that it is a graphic giving information relating to a physical space. Not just a space but a changing space through time. Art installations change and especially at art museum’s they can result in a change of almost everything except the weight barring walls. Yet even with glass walls an art museum can’t show from the outside all the juicy, enticing visuals hidden inside without displaying huge banners of just a fraction of the art housed within.

Why does this stick in my head I have been saying to myself.

Something, something, something, augmented reality is what the the small voice said.

This year suddenly  associates have been very excited about the ability to take a simple B&W graphic printed out at home, combined with a PC camera and be able to control a 3D graphic on their screen in real time.  Augmented reality as it’s called can be seen in videos, online geekery, commercials and in some select toy stores. Please check it out or if you have the where-with-all try some yourself. I haven’t myself. But by the look of it, without building the 3D models it seems quick to jump into and start playing around.  One guy took a couple of graphic tags, that the computer can identify their position and tilt and made himself into a robot…virtually of course. GE has miniature sets or diorama’s that shift and move and react to the sound of blowing from the user to move miniature wind turbines….virtually.  Toys-R-Us lets you rotate boxes of Leggo’s and see what they will be in 3D when you finishing putting all the blocks together. Amazing but limited to what the camera sees and can display on the monitor connected to it.

The next piece of the puzzle. The N building.

N Building from Alexander Reeder on Vimeo.

A new building with a QR code on its facade. Viewing with your iPhone takes you to a website where you can see the inner dialogue of tweets and what going on in terms of sales in the building. Cute technology and they have eliminated covering the building with signage. Now it just has very large black and white squares. Hmmmm?

What could we do with this technology?

Or, what if we combined these ideas.

All though the promise in the article about a adless or signless architectural environment is alluring, I have doubts if any one would pay for it, unless Google could hook up your windshield display to show you ads that related to you as you drove by in your Android OS “Gcar”.

But having a visual code for your phone can read is technology that is here now, it is more a task of using it properly. So lets take MoMA building and add a visual code somewhere on it’s exterior that accesses the info on a special website built for quick mobile downloading.  For the sake of argument, lets say the visual code doesn’t take up the entire facade. Maybe it is on a postcard or poster. Take some multi-touch witchery and you can now rotate the building in 3D and plan your route for the day while you wait inline. Sounds hard? I have a fun little game on my iPhone called StarDefense. Check out and see if it isn’t deceptively simple to start thinking in 3D. Or skip the line and buy tickets online, after you browse some of the artworks. What if we could scroll ahead in the season or back or focus on the timeline of one day within the building. Now perhaps you could see, based on averages, where it is going to be most crowded inside the building throughout the day using a simple infographic color coding. The hotter the color the more crowded. Simple?

Take this technology and expand it to the retail store. Slowing the customer down may seem like a good goal now but will it remain so in the future. Perhaps the emphasis for good business will be providing the most necessary information, facilitating their decisions in a hospitable form and occasional delivering a temporary diversion for the visitor waiting for a friend to try on their 8th pair of jeans.

Combine infographics with 3D graphics and now you have a way of letting people process information about 3d spaces as a 3d space. No more disconnects of repeatedly rotating maps to find your location and direction.

The other interesting thing about the N building to me is seeing the tweets inside. For me that echos the providing of additional information but also doesn’t it expand on the ideas of transparency but to a much closer physical proximity.


With smart phones or even dumb phones being able to see with a camera lens and access the internet and find themselves on a map with GPS the real world and digital record of information are getting closer. QR codes may seem ugly and obtrusive at this point but consider them a quick visual bridge or a temporary device.  A wealth of information seekers and the curious may want to know who you are or what your company does as they travel by. Maybe they are your next customer or begrudging FB fan.

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