Human writable, Machine readable: QR codes
Physical tokens, digital presence
New shirt idea: QR a QT!
I figure I can start writing about an emerging technology once it hits Kanye West’s blog.
From my rigorous research, I learned that Q(uick) R(esponse) codes are like barcodes, with information that you can scan, decode, and get some kind of data from — usually a website, text, or an image.
You use a a mobile phone as a decoder to snap the QR’s picture, and decode the information that will lead you somewhere else in the digital world. If the purpose of QR sounds vague and open-ended, that’s cause it is!
For a QR scanner, try the Kaywa Reader. If anything, you should check out the illustrated “story” on the home page, which explains QR as a treasure-hunt serendipity factor for nerds, with the closing moral being “The early nerd gets the QR code!”
On a trendspotting note, I have yet to see QR codes out and about in everyday life. How will I ever get that micro-platform-blogging dream job like Susanne above??
Big in Japan
Japan’s had QR forever (from Denso-Wave’s work for the Japanese auto manufacturing industry in the mid-1990’s) but it’s now resurfacing, likely tied to the rise of personal mobile phone use. QR codes are often used as a promotional tactic — gaining you entrance to “Try-vertising” sampling salons in Tokyo, for example.
If you’re not a big ad agency, perhaps you’re using QR codes to help mobile technology in developing countries. In India, 40% of the rural population are illiterate. This population is challenged the text-based format and confusing iconography of mobile phones. Experience design consultancy Adaptive Path came up with a video sketch for MobileGlyph, a system of using QR codes to capture photos and information about contacts that can be used in an easy user interface, without having to rely on text or numbers.
For a BRAND YOU bent, Emma Cott turns QR codes into wearable art “through a beautiful and elegant code concealing your hidden message.” In other words, you customize a QR code and stick it on a t-shirt or a button. The open code creator is simple: enter your URL website, pick a motive (HIRE ME, ADD ME, DATE ME, BUY ME, or customize your own) and out comes a custom generated QR patch.
Here’s mine for Indienomics. (Besides “Hire Me”, I can think of some other motivations I want to silently and mysteriously communicate to people. Ahem.)
QR codes are kind of ugly, aren’t they? The Marc Jacobs one is cute only because it’s blocked by a cute illustration of “Miss Marc.” I think the design aesthetic flaw of the QR code is a small part of what Microsoft Tag is trying to conquer. No ugly, black-and-white pixelated squares there! You can create, customize, and color your own series of machine readable codes…. even using, yes, PowerPoint as a design tool! (The design aspect is no small part of our perception of a product’s functionality. This is why Donald Norman’s Emotional Design book is on my reading list. And also because Matt mentioned it.)
“Miss Marc” QR code for Japanese mobile website, launching today.
Vizitag, a startup in the “mobile tag management system” industry, had a good FAQ that answered at least two of my questions:
I Already Have a Website – Why Do I Need Vizitags?
These days, every business has a website chock full of content but you have to find it, visit it and search it to find what you want. Vizitags are designed for the ‘mobile generation’ who expect instant information gratification via the phone they carry with them everywhere.
In practice it doesn’t take much longer to load the reader and snap a tag as to load a browser and click a bookmark to go to a web page. The difference is that snapping a Vizitag will display some very specific and useful information immediately on your mobile and/or email you some targeted content that you can refer to straightaway or later.
What’s the Difference Between a Vizitag and Barcodes/RFID?
Barcodes are normally used to identify products – for example for the purposes of pricing them, stock taking or asset management. Barcodes usually require fixed or handheld scanning hardware and convert a specific alphanumeric code – like a Universal Product Code (UPC) – into a black-and-white bar image.
A RFID chip is a piece of hardware that can act in passive or active mode to be read or to read/write data and requires fixed or handheld readers. RFID chips are often used to track products through a supply chain for inventory control and lifecycle tracking purposes. Unlike a Vizitag, RFID chips cost money to buy the device itself. They are also more vulnerable to damage and therefore could be subject to replacement costs.