Thumbing through a recent copy of the Santa Barbara Zoo‘s quarterly member’s magazine, i was intrigued by this article about the park’s new feature: QR codes!
Let’s all get on the same page: QR stands for “Quick Response”, and the codes were developed in the mid-90’s in Japan as a step up from bar codes, which only contain information in one dimension. QR codes carry information in two dimensions, so they can express a lot more and still be easy for scanning and reading equipment to translate. (Source: http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-qr-code.htm) The article image to the right contains a QR code: it’s the blocky graphic made of little black boxes. Believe it or not, that means something to a computer.
Asia has been using QR codes heavily for many years, and the technology is just now finding a foothold in other parts of the world in a big way, particularly as mobile technologies advance by leaps and bounds not only in sophistication but in prevalence of use. The SB Zoo is using it in a popular and intended way: visitors can scan codes that they see physically in the park to get access to additional video content about the exhibit they’re seeing! QR codes can also be found in magazine ads, as window stickers, on billboards, and more, and can point a mobile device to a home page URL, a special web-based coupon, video content…you name it. Some code generators will even create codes for phone numbers or text!
Wait, scan the code? Yes, to participate in the QR revolution, you do need to have a mobile device with a camera and a QR code reader. There are bajillions of reader programs, and they’re all free as far as i can tell (at least, enough of them are free that i don’t know how or why anyone would ever pay for one). i have BeeTagg on my BlackBerry, and it seems to integrate itself pretty well into using the built-in camera as an image scanner. My only caution is that the ability to scan QR codes is dependent on the quality of your device’s camera. i tried to scan this Google Places code three times without success, because i couldn’t get the image to be focused:(Click the image to learn more about these stickers.) So you wanna make one of these for yourself? QR code generators are widespread and free too. i just used Kaywa to generate a code for my home phone number, successfully scanned it right from my computer screen with BeeTagg on my phone, and initiated a call.
So what’s the point? GREAT question, asked this way by a blogger and industry analyst on Quora:
What with QR codes popping up everywhere (e.g., bit.ly auto-generates them now) US-side, is there something I “should” be doing with them (to increase traffic, usability, and otherwise make my readers happier and my stuff more widely read)? Or, is it just another wing-ding that’s just a distraction?
Social Identity Specialist Hugh Briss answers:
The important thing to consider is whether you have something that makes sense to use a QR code for. Since people who scan them will be using a mobile device, it would work best if the website or blog you linked to was in a mobile format. If you use the code to download something it should be a mobile app or ebook that can be read on a mobile phone.
Where have you seen QR codes in the physical world? Have you used them? What uses might they hold for your business or organization?