Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Fun With QR Codes

Up until a few weeks ago, I didn't even know what a QR code was. According to Wikipedia, it's "a matrix code (or two-dimensional bar code) created by Japanese corporation Denso-Wave in 1994." Standard barcodes are one dimentional, meaning only vertical lines, and can store very little information. Usually, standard barcodes contain a simple series of numbers.

Two-dimentional barcodes however, are able to contain considerably more information. The code above, for example, contains the following paragraph:
QR Codes are able to store more information than standard one dimensional barcodes. They can contain a URL, plain text, phone numbers, or even a person's whole contact information.
Microsoft has even developed a multi-colored 2D barcode capable of storing even more information. As you can see, there's a lot of potential here. QR codes have been popular in Japan for a number of years and are just starting to make their appearance in the United States and Europe. Here's an example of the NYTimes using QR codes during the recent election.

The popularity of QR codes stems from the fact that most cellphones have the ability to read them. With the right software, just point your phone at the code and viola, you have the decoded result. If you don't have QR code scanning software on your phone, here's how to get it:

Android: Barcode Scanner, available for free in the Android Market
iPhone: Barcodes, available for free via the App Store
Windows Mobile: Scanlife (visit this link from your phone), QuickMark, both free
Nokia: Kaywa Reader, free
BlackBerry: Scanlife (visit this link from your phone), free
A few others: Kaywa Reader, Scanlife (visit this link from your phone), both free

I encourage you to check it out. With the increasing proliferation of smartphones in the USA, I think we're going to be seeing more and more QR codes in the wild. Here's another for you to scan, when you get a scanner set up on your phone. This code simply contains the URL for this blog. :-)

UPDATE: If you want to make your own QR codes, check out this QR Code Generator. Enjoy!

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