Navigate stores and libraries by barcode

Interesting Engineering

Researchers Simon Robinson, Jennifer Pearson, and Matt Jones from the Future Interaction Technology Lab at Swansea University have come up with an app that can help you navigate large stores and libraries via barcodes. We've all been there, lost in the depths of library shelves, struggling to find the item you're after at a supermarket. This new app allows you to scan a barcode of an item near you and offer you a map based navigation guide to where you need to go.

barcodeguide[Image Source: Swansea University]

Supermarkets tend to change their shelving order often and leave you wandering the store looking for the item you always buy from that same shelf every week, but not this week. It's a common tactic from supermarkets to get the customers to travel the store more and end up purchasing more items they didn't intend on when deciding to go shopping. If you knew where your regular items were, you would whiz around the store not looking at anything else.

Libraries too can get extremely confusing with their letter and number references to sections and books, especially when libraries can be enormous! Whilst die hard book fans love the adventure of book hunting, most people have become used to the convenience of searching for something on the internet and it appearing right away.

barcodeguide2[Image Source: Swansea University]

The app saves you from this confusing hunt by taking a map of the store and splitting it into "product zones". Then you can scan a barcode of a nearby item and a navigation route pops up guiding you to where you want to be. This means that no extra parts are needed such as adding QR codes or any other cataloging method.

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[Image Source: Swansea University]

The app is currently only available to Android users of Swansea University Library but with news spreading rapidly of its capabilities we imagine that it will soon see implementation in many stores and libraries. One way of improving on the barcode system would be to implement optical character recognition (OCR) which has already been prototyped in a museum by Cooper Hewitt Labs. Dubbed the "Label Whisperer"  it can recognize accession numbers from the photo of a label and guides you to the online catalogue entry for the object.

As a graduate of Swansea University myself I know just how much of a labyrinth the library can be and it brings me pride to see such great ideas coming from the students there. You can check out the full pdf release here.

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