augmented reality building with tweets
Qosmo used augmented reality to share information about the N Building using an iPhone App. You can read the tweets of people inside.

If you’re not satisfied with projecting videos onto a building, or turning it into a giant pinball machine, maybe you’d like to be able to read its mind. Japanese company Qosmo, along with Terada Design have transformed the N Builing in Tokyo into an augmented reality display. Using a limited release iPhone application, people walking through Tachikawa Station can view the pixelated designs on the building’s windows and obtain up to date shop information, or even read the tweets of the people inside. Those designs, called QR codes, are a common augmented reality technique that allow the viewing device to know which information to retrieve for the object being viewed. According to the blog of Qosmo CEO Nao Tokui, however, you can get the same information using the building’s natural features instead of the QR codes. The N building experiment may be the first step towards changing the face of Tokyo. Instead of endless billboards and signage, we could have highly specified images on demand that inform as well as delight the eye. Check out the video of the N Building after the break.


Augmented reality goes hand in hand with GPS tagging to provide some great on the spot information sharing. We’ve seen similar techniques with the Dutch Layar application. The N Building is a unique prototype for building AR, and the QR codes were designed to fit into the architecture. One day, I’m sure we could see AR mobile phone Apps that knew the shape of every building in a city and could give you up to date news about their products, occupants, and history. Emergency news systems could be incorporated into QR codes on the surface of every fire hydrant or police call box. Plus, there’s endless opportunities for “Info-tainment”. All that, and you could shut off the stream of data anytime just by putting your phone down. That’s a much better system than a billboard.

[photo credit: Yuki Omori – TeradaDesign Architecture]