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rtcodes aims to revolutionise embedded computer codes. It

designs visually beautiful images and encodes them, resulting

in the same interactivity as that of a QR code, while offering

a more engaging and playful experience. It uses an app which can

be downloaded on to a smart device and can then be used to scan

the Artcode — the app does not recognise the image but scans the

topography of the image.

By making such decorative patterns interactive, all manner of

everyday objects can become part of the “Internet of Things” simply

by decorating their surfaces. Pointing a camera at a thing might then

enable people to learn about what it is, how it was made, and how to

use it; to access personal memories or review their history of use; or

to trigger other contextually relevant services.

The team has worked with the London restaurant chain, Busaba

Eathai, to provide ideas for an enhanced digital dining experience

through allowing customers to scan decorative motifs and pattern

designs on tableware, menus and placemats.

The intention is to allow the diners to access information on, for

example, specials of the day, a view into the kitchen to see the food

being prepared, and to learn about each dish, its inspiration and


The team has also been exploring how Artcodes might be crafted

into lace in order to promote public engagement with Nottingham’s

collection of machine-made lace. This involved manufacturing new

lace samples based on historic pieces in the collection as packaged

souvenirs and employing embedded Artcodes to link to digital media.

Working with two experienced fabric designers and the collection’s

access officer, the team experimented with fabric and refinement

of the vision recognition software; designed and manufactured lace

patterns; and developed a demonstrator mobile app. The outcome

was that visitors were able to handle lace souvenirs produced

through this process, scanning them with their mobile phone to

reveal informative stories.

The team is working with ceramic designers and Johnson Tiles

to explore the creation of beautiful tiles decorated with Artcodes.

The intention is that users will be able to associate decorated

locations in their homes with digital media and services such as

documentation of DIY projects (before and after), knowledge about

hidden infrastructures (such as cables behind the wall), and personal


A further spin out project from the Artcodes research is the

Carolan Guitar, named after the legendary Irish composer Turlough


The team worked with a master craftsman to create the beautiful

new interactive acoustic guitar that can digitally capture and chart

its own life history. Scanning the different patterns on the Carolan

Artcodes: A visual recognition app for smartphones