ITP Spring Show 2009
Sunday, May 10, 2-6pm & Monday, May 11, 5-9 pm

Aaron Uhrmacher
Aram Chang

Gotham Guide

Gotham Guide uses 2D barcode technology to create a self-guided multimedia tour of New York using mobile phones.

1', 2', 10',Mobile Me(dia)

Gotham Guide is New York's first multimedia tour using QR code technology to add a contextual layer of information on top of Manhattan's city streets. Anyone armed with QR reader enabled mobile phone can snap a picture of a Gotham Guide code and learn more about the location where they stand. This project includes a custom QR code reader (J2ME), a website ( and coded logos designed and placed strategically throughout the city.

I did a bit of research into the history of QR Codes, and I learned that although the technology is almost a decade old, it still hasn't gained too much popularity here in the USA. However, the technology is leveraged in Europe and Asia for marketing/advertising, food labeling, SMS and more.

Because QR codes are more recognizable by visitors from other countries (who also have mobile phones equipped with the software to decode them), my primary audience for this project is tourists from Europe and Asia. Many of them will appreciate the opportunity to learn about New York as they wander around and encounter the codes unexpectedly. Others might be interested in obtaining a map revealing the locations of all the codes.

There are also early adopters of technology who will know what QR codes are on sight and decode them for the sheer joy of finding such a code in the wild.

User Scenario
If they don't already have the software for their phones, users will be able to download a customized application built by myself and Aram Chang from the Gotham Guide website, where they will also obtain a map of New York with the locations of the QR codes highlighted.

When a user encounters a code, he or she can snap a picture of it with their phone, which will then take them to a mobile website where they can listen to audio, view a video clip or read a snippet from a webpage that will provide contextual information about their current location and the buildings surrounding them.

Since this was created in concert with several classes, there are a few pieces to the user experience. There is a website where users can download the maps with QR code locations and the QR code reader for their phones.

There is also a mobile phone application for phones on the J2ME platform and links to programs for other phones.

There are also QR Codes with the Gotham Guide logo that have been placed around the city linking to original video content from one of New York's premier tour guides, Luke Miller from Real New York Tours.

What's exciting to me about this program is the opportunity for people to serendipitously discover new things about the buildings they pass each day and for tourists to use advances in mobile technology to interact with the city in a brand new way.