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Home » News, Opinion

The Resurrection of QR Codes?

Submitted by on Monday, 31 May 20108 Comments

Does anyone care about QR Codes anymore?  I don’t see them used much, just a few die hard sites giving quick links to downloading software to mobile devices. QR Codes have been around since the 1990s and have hardly set the world alight, outside Asia I hardly ever see them used for sales and marketing campaigns, and when I do it’s normally a customer coming to me with a really poorly thought out campaign.

We had a customer whose QR Code plan went something along the lines of… “A user will see our advert for a product, they’ll come to our website using their browser, download a our QR Code reader, then they’ll be able to take a picture of our QR Code which will take them to our micro site where they can download the software”. If a user has to visit your site to download something to go back to your site you have a problem. They missed the point of QR Codes being quick links to a website and not an interactive medium.

I was surprised to read on InventorSpot that Facebook are investigating using QR Codes that will link to a users profile or status feed. The article talks about the issues this raises with privacy, and how QR Codes are going to make Facebook millions in advertising.

Apparently the plan is, you as a user will have the option to use your QR Code on business cards, tee-shirts or whatever and friends will be able to access your Facebook page just by taking a photo of your code. The good thing about QR Codes is there are hundreds of readers out there spanning lots of devices, but I can’t help thinking it’s investing in the wrong technology.

Consider two options; you can have a tee-shirt with a QR Code that links to your Facebook Status feed. Users take a photo of your tee-shirt and get redirected to your Facebook page. Or you can have a marker that displays content directly on the tee-shirt with optional 3D animation.  Which do you choose?

The InventorSpot article goes on to promote the enormous potential for advertising where every product has it own QR Code placed discreetly in the advertisement. You known the kind of thing where a billboard has an advert for the latest must have gadget and in the corner will be a QR Code linking you to the website. I’m sure that was the goal when QR Codes were first introduced but they have had their chance and they failed (in the the West at least). They are no match for today’s augmented reality solutions.

Today we have mobile augmented reality applications that are able to recognise full colour advertisements. Nokia’s Point & Find for example enables a user to take a photo of a movie poster and watch a trailer, book tickets at nearby cinemas (courtesy of GPS), or read reviews. Advertisers don’t even need to do anything special. Pongr is yet another solution that is able to recognise any billboard advertisement or product logo (as long as it is uploaded to their database) and give the user contextual  information.

Coming full circle and back to Facebook and poorly implemented QR Campaigns, the scenario was given by InventorSpot was:

“Scan a product on a Facebook page and get an immediate personalized offer where you could purchase ‘said’ item on the spot. Advertisers in turn would pay Facebook 30% off every sale, using their Facebook Credit ‘commissionable’ model”

I could be on your Facebook page, see something I like, go downstairs to find my phone, come back upstairs, take a picture with my phone, be redirected to the product page, browser it on my tiny phone screen and enter my details using T9. Or I could just use my mouse to click the link.

QR Codes have their place as a quick linking tool for mobile devices not as a rich sales/marketing tool, it’s time to let them go and embrace the future.

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  • KissfishSue said:

    I have to agree in some points you mentioned. But why have qr codes failed to become really public in most countries? Because people obviously were not at all faced with those codes; and there might be no real use for it. But I estimate that about 99 % of the people never conciously were aware of those codes, neither seen one before, nor know what you can do with those codes.
    Sure, they are nice for mobile phones, but they are also quite geeky :-) I design Shirts with those codes, but I do not only put the codes on the shirts, but also add design to them – think they look rather nice. Maybe they will be on vogue, when they are “retro”? :-)

  • lester said:


    You are quite right, many people don’t know what a QR Code is which is one of the reasons why they have never been successful. It was a technology far ahead of its time. I don’t remember what kind of phone I had in 1994 but I’d be surprised if it had a camera.

    The other is, until recently installing applications on a mobile device has been difficult and beyond the average users capability. My brother in law for example would believe that until he brought his iPhone there was no such thing as mobile applications. Even now I have difficulty convincing him that you can use Twitter on any smartphone.

    It’s interesting that you are printing tee-shirts with QR Codes embedded, I took a look at your site ( and its pretty cool.

    Have you taken a look at Microsoft Tags? Tags are more advanced than QR Codes and do similar things. The big difference is you can use your own background for the tag and incorporate it into your design. For example the Tag below has a custom background of the Augmented Planet logo. If you’re creative you can hid the coloured dots in the picture.

    If I get a chance later I’ll write up a Microsoft Tags post.


  • KissfishSue said:

    Hi again :-)
    Yes I also made some designs with the MS Tag. It offers a great variety on designs – you can see them here:

    Each Code has something special. Im my opition the ordinary qr-code is more geek style, since pure. But you can also include graphics inside this code, and it still works. You can put a picture in the middle of the code, and if you chose it not too large, the code is still readable. Disadvantage: it depends on the reader on your mobile whether it is still readable or not. I was astonished, that not all apps deliver the same result. Code seems not to be code :-)

    MS Tag can be black and white, with colored dots, and with the colored triangles. I personally was challenged by the dot code, although this code is not suitable for just one T-Shirt print of one single personal url. It takes too much effort, i.e. hours and cannot be used for another message. But I see potential customers who want to have a code for their company url on their products with a special design. I am aware that you can place a graphic to the other MS Tags as well, as I already do with the QR code. Frankly spoken, I dislike the one with just placing a graphic to the background. It looks a little bit like rubbish :-) But this might also depend on the picture you chose. The colors are very loud when chosing the colored one.
    A disadvantage of MS Tag is, that the program to create the codes will not be open source.

    I agree that those codes will not be a hype like in some other countries, but in my opinion they are just cute!

  • Patrick Donnelly said:

    I personally do not believe its a winner take all scenario.

    I believe there is room for AR, QR, and other technology agnosticism as tools to communicate.

    I would think that having too many solutions could be a good thing. But, I dont know where that thought it going.

    -Patrick Donnelly

  • Tim said:

    What are the minimum hardware requirements for an AR compared to a QR client? I have seen QR codes running brilliantly on low-end feature phones and RTOS devices – all they need is a camera, an app, and a GPRS data connection. What is the market penetration of these capabilities? Anybody got any data on deployment figures for handsets with on-ROM QR reader software?

  • KissfishSue said:

    You cannot compare this. A qr-code is quick responding, as the name says, augmented reality is working with markers at present, and actually only a computer cam can handle to project a 3D-picture to a marker right now, since the picture projected has do be on the pc that projects it. At present I dont know a mobile that can handle this. You must not mix qr codes with ar. There is already markerless ar but i think this will be a big step until ar becomes that realistic to a mobile, as it can be with a computer that helds the content that is fixed to a marker.
    If you use your mobile with taggin’ on streets using markers, the content is stored anywhere and can be read by the internet, not by your phone.

  • Mike said:

    I think there are two important points here. First off, we shouldn’t underestimate the ability of Facebook to drive this kind of innovation. This post on Mashable “How Facebook Makes Edgy Concepts Mainstream” articulates this quite nicely.

    Secondly, the actual ~thing~ going on behind the scenes (ie. Internet Of Things) is the important point, not the technology that is actually being used to do the linking between real and virtual. Whether this is QR, SMS, visual codes, shorturls, shortcodes, RFID is reasonably transient and trivial. What is more important IMO is that the conceptual basis of IOT is now in place ready for the developer community to work with. We now have location, we now have devices, we now have networks (see my slide here) – the barrier to adoption is now about usability and invisibleness and not about technology.

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