The projected environment consists of a number of computer-generated objects, each one corresponding to a different guest. These objects are brought into being by scanning unique bar codes that are printed on white cubes that are dispersed throughout the room. Once brought into existence, objects exist as semi-autonomous agents that are only partially under the control of their human collaborators. They also respond to other objects, and to their environment. They emit a variety of sounds in the course of their actions and interactions. They have their own behavior and personality; they have their own life span (on the order of a few minutes); they age and (eventually) die.
Bar Code Hotel is designed to accomodate any number of guests, up to the available number of bar code wands (which is dependent on the particular configuration installed). Currently, the Hotel can easily handle between one and six guests at a time.
Each time a guest scans a bar code, contact is re-established between that guest and their object. However, between these moments of human contact, objects are on their own. This allows for a number of possible styles of interaction. Guests can choose to stay in constant touch with their object, scanning in directives almost continuously. Or they may decide to exert a more remote influence, watching to see what happens, occasionally offering a bit of "advice". Guests can scan any bar code within reach at any time. Each bar code is labeled (verbally or graphically), letting the user know what action will result.
The objects in Bar Code Hotel are based on a variety of familiar and inanimate things from everyday experience: eyeglasses, hats, suitcases, paperclips, boots, and so on. None of them are based on living creatures; their status as characters (and as surrogates for the user) is tentative, and depends totally upon their movement and interaction. At times they can organize themselves into a sort of visual sentence, an unstable and incoherent rebus.
Objects can interact with each other in a variety of ways, ranging from friendly to devious to downright nasty. They can form and break alliances. Together they make up an anarchic but functioning ecosystem.