QR Codes: great, but then what?

I keep a long and ever-growing out­line of blog top­ics I may some­day write about. Most aren’t ful­ly formed, but each at least once struck me as in­ter­est­ing at some point or an­oth­er, so I fig­ured they’re worth keep­ing around.1 (See one re­al ex­am­ple to right.)

  • <3 qr-codes
    • bridges the phys­i­cal and the cyber
    • low-tech, lowest-common denominator
    • cam­er­a­phones in every pocket
    • makes a lot more sense than com­pet­ing tech­nolo­gies, like that mi­crosoft one with the dif­fer­ent col­ors that re­quires col­or print­ing, etc. this one I could, if so in­clined, draw with a pencil
    • sad­ly, most of what I use this tech­nol­ogy for is cu­ri­ous­ly decod­ing bar­codes I come across on the web

I add top­ics to my list pret­ty reg­u­lar­ly, but what doesn’t hap­pen very reg­u­lar­ly is some­one read­ing my mind and writ­ing my post for me. Okay, it’s on­ly hap­pened once: about a week ago, and it was geek­ing out on QR Codes.

I’m a bit be­hind on my RSS read­ing, but when I just came across this bo­ing­bo­ing post, I was quite pleased. In it, guest blog­ger Glenn Fleishman pret­ty much lays out the case for 2D bar­codes — QR be­ing the most pop­u­lar, good/open-enough for­mat — as a use­ful sort of link be­tween the phys­i­cal world and the dig­i­tal one. It’s an idea I hap­pen to have loved for a few years now, and with Internet-enabled cam­er­a­phones all over the place, one that has the po­ten­tial2 to cre­ate some ben­e­fit to so­ci­ety on a large scale.

It should come as lit­tle sur­prise, then, that for as long as I’ve been aware of these codes, I’ve longed to find a use for the tech­nol­o­gy aside from the mun­dane let peo­ple scan your ad to go to your web­site, or send a URL from your com­put­er to your phone. A hand­ful of bo­ing­bo­ing com­menters point­ed out a few real-world ex­am­ples of ways they have used QR codes: la­bel­ing shared lab equip­ment or get­ting on the VIP list at Tokyo clubs. Interesting they are; world-changing they’re not.

Of course, there’s al­so the idea of pro­vid­ing rich­er in­for­ma­tion about wine than a sim­ple bot­tle la­bel could dis­play, which I find a step above the oth­ers, and giv­ing ex­tra con­text to mu­se­um art, which I think gets us even closer.

Yet I still think QR Codes have even greater po­ten­tial… but po­ten­tial isn’t even half the battle.

  1. Yes, they’re ba­si­cal­ly brain crack.
  2. Naturally, the bar­ri­er to adop­tion is con­vinc­ing the av­er­age per­son to both­er solv­ing for them­selves a prob­lem — easy URL/text/contact en­try on their phone — they didn’t re­al­ize they had.