In an earlier post, I wrote about history being recorded in the sidewalks of Rio. Well, now they’re making history in the sidewalks, as well.

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According to the BBC, “Rio de Janeiro is adding something new into its trademark black-and-white mosaic pavements: QR codes. By mixing technology with tradition, the Brazilian city is hoping to bring its tourism sector into the 21st Century.”

“Quick Response, or QR, codes are a type of barcode loaded with information that, when scanned with a phone or other device, can open a web page, social media site or video (users first need to download an app, available for iPhone, iPad, and Android.)

“According to the Associated Press, Brazil plans to install about 30 QR codes at beaches, vistas and historic sites across the city, enabling Rio’s roughly two million foreign visitors each year to learn about the city as they stroll around. When they scan the codes, they’ll access a website with information about the site, including maps, history and highlights in Portuguese, Spanish and English.”

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How cool is that? Instead of the usual “heritage site” placards, cities can now embed their history in the sidewalks, or on walls, or on tiny tiles placed unobtrusively at a site of importance. Think about Gettysburg without the informational signage.

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No need to carry travel guides and un-refoldable maps anymore. With a QR code, visitors can immediately visit a website, on which all information is displayed, along with videos, music of the era, photos, maps, etc. And all without defacing or changing the original horizon.

The BBC story continues: “The first QR code was installed on 25 January at Arpoador, the massive boulder anchoring the end of Ipanema beach. When scanned, the black-and-white QR code – embedded into the already existing mosaics of waves, fish, and plants – gives the user information about the beach and rock. Did you know that the boulder is named for the fishermen who once harpooned whales there (arpoador is Portuguese for harpoon-thrower), or that the beach is a favourite surfing spot due to its perfect waves, hence its nickname, Praia do Diablo, or Devil’s Beach?”

This is a fairly new idea in terms of travel, with several problems to overcome, including the fact that most travels with smartphones don’t currently have data coverage overseas, or they aren’t aware of how to use smartphones and QR codes, but in the next few years, I’m pretty sure we’ll see this idea taking off. Think about it: a visitor need never feel lost again! One quick click of a smartphone and they’d have maps, information, links to hotels and restaurants, taxi numbers, and a host of other items useful to any tourist.

One advantage Rio has, I must admit, is that they already incorporate designs in their sidewalks. This might be a bit more intrusive in another city. But, who’s to say the QR codes have to be large, or embedded in the sidewalks? What about on lampposts, or tiny tabs on a wall? The possibilities are endless.

Note to my daughter: think in terms of QR codes when designing museum exhibits!

(The full BBC article can be found here.)