Mixing old and new: QR codes embedded in Brazil’s traditional cobbles

QR codes BrazilIt’s a pavement style called Calçada that’s an art from in Portugal and its colonies. With an uncertain future because of dwindling numbers of skilled craftsmen willing to take on the job, maybe this new development will give it fresh impetus.

An ubiquitous part of the wealthier parts of Brazil’s Rio de Janeiro, this style of pavement is now being used to give tourists information about the city by embedding bar codes in the black and white mosaic sidewalks.

The first pavement QR, or quick response, codes have been installed at Arpoador, which means the harpoon thrower, an affluent neighbourhood at the end of Brazil’s most famous beach, Ipanema.

Once tourists download the code to their smartphones or tablets and photograph the item, they are taken by the app to a website that Rio Brazilgives multilingual information about the area, along with a map.

They’re told, for example, that Arpoador gets big waves, which makes it a good place to surf and that the nearby beach is called Praia do Diabo, Devil’s Beach. Information is also given about how Arpoador got its name, which is because fishermen once harpooned whales off the shore.

It’s just the first step in a plan by the city to put 30 QR codes in place at beaches, viewing points and historic sites so visitors to Rio can learn about the city and its heritage as they explore.

The move should benefit some of the two million tourists who visit Rio de Janeiro, affectionately known simple as Rio, every year. As the capital of Brazil, and its second largest city, it can be easy to get lost in, so the QR codes should help tourists to get their bearings as well as telling them important and interesting facts about the places they visit.

Specialist stone craftsmen were chosen to carry out the work, those with extensive experience of creating mosaic pavements. One of QR codes, Brazilthe workmen, Gediao Jorge, said: “It was a challenge. I’ve built Portuguese pavements like these for 27 years now, but this was the biggest challenge of my career.”

Marcos Correa Bento, head of Rio de Janeiro’s conservation and public works, said: “If you add the number of Brazilian tourists, this tool has a great potential to be useful.”

And, it was certainly well received by some of the first people to use it. Raul Oiveria Neto, 24, from Porto Alegre, in the south of the country, said: “We use so much technology to pass information, this makes sense. It’s the way we do things nowadays.”

Rio de Janeiro local Diego Fortunato, 25, added: “Rio doesn’t always have information for those who don’t know the city. It’s something the city needs, that it’s been lacking.”

The move follows similar work in Portugal’s capital city of Lisbon where QR codes have been built into pavements at the top of Rua Garrett in the Chiado area. There have, however, been reports in Portugal that the code is impossible to scan in bright sunlight, something which could make use tricky in Brazil if the same problems arise, as Rio gets around 160 hours of sunshine every month in summer.

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