Thursday, August 23, 2007

2007 Taipei Cultural Passport

Back in June, Taipei City Government's Department of Culture Affairs launched their annual campaign to promote Taipei's tourist attractions called the 2007 Taipei Cultural Passport. They published a little booklet filled with sightseeing information and are freely distributed at various locations such as the airport or the MRT.

This year, QR Codes were promoted as a new feature on the international version of the Taipei Cultural Passport. Their reasoning behind this idea is actually quite interesting. They had 2 language versions of the Passport contents for the international version: English and Japanese. However, they simply did not have enough room (any perhaps budget) to print both languages in the booklet. Considering how common it is nowadays for Japanese mobile phones to have built-in mobile barcode readers, they decided to encode all the Japanese content into QR Codes.

The finished product contains 2 QR Codes for each tourist attraction, one contains the entire text description in Japanese and the other containing the contact/address information of the place. Since complete paragraphs were encoded into QR Codes, the barcodes are extremely dense. And because of the limited printing space, the physical size of the barcodes had to be reduced as well.

The result is that only phones with cameras that support macro lens are able to read those barcodes. The good news for them is that unlike rest of the world, the majority of Japanese mobile phones actually do have great macro lens capability, so at least their target audience will be able to benefit from the QR Codes.

They printed 25,000 copies of the international version and the last I heard was that it ran out pretty fast and had plenty of requests for more copies. Maybe we will be seeing more of these barcodes from the Department of Culture Affairs next year?

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