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March 4, 2012 12:00 PM   Subscribe

WHAT. THE. FUCK. QR CODES?

Previously, from a more innocent time.
posted by Horace Rumpole (159 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite

 
If I had the time, I'd write an ios game that uses QR codes as seeds to generate enemies and items that you can fight/use.
posted by drezdn at 12:04 PM on March 4, 2012 [17 favorites]


Cargo-cult marketing strikes again.

For an actually kind of cool use of the tech, check this out.
posted by downing street memo at 12:04 PM on March 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


Every time I see one of those things, I think "CueCat 2.0."
posted by MegoSteve at 12:07 PM on March 4, 2012 [33 favorites]


Is scanning a QR code really easier than remembering a domain name?
posted by pashdown at 12:09 PM on March 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


You can use this QR decoder with some of the pictures on the blog (no, the blog's own QR logo doesn't work).
posted by Foci for Analysis at 12:10 PM on March 4, 2012


Is the blog right - do only 1% of people bother to scan them? (I know I never have)
posted by WowLookStars at 12:13 PM on March 4, 2012


I can read QR codes with the naked eye.
posted by Burhanistan at 12:13 PM on March 4, 2012 [8 favorites]


QR codes are hilarious. And proponents of them are the type that are into tech that actually makes shit more difficult and confusing.

It's impractical tech as a signifier of with-it-ness that ironically telegraphs the exact opposite.
posted by defenestration at 12:15 PM on March 4, 2012 [28 favorites]


Sometimes when a desktop site has a QR code for it's mobile version/app, I'll scan it, but since I have Chrome to Phone (extension that sends links to your cellphone) and the android market works remotely via your Google account, I don't see much point in these as a way to embed URLs for things that already have simple domain names or things I wouldn't bother to visit the website of (such as say, strawberries).
posted by mccarty.tim at 12:16 PM on March 4, 2012


do only 1% of people bother to scan them?

I've tried scanning them in magazines, once or twice. You have the have the right lighting, the magazine has to be somewhat flat and they often just take you to the home page. In other words, not worth the effort. I have heard that some actually link to exclusive content for mobile users but that has not been my experience.
posted by tommasz at 12:16 PM on March 4, 2012


If I had the time, I'd write an ios game that uses QR codes as seeds to generate enemies and items that you can fight/use.

Barcode Battler was a neat handheld gaming console that did exactly that in the early 90s with UPC codes.
posted by euphorb at 12:17 PM on March 4, 2012 [7 favorites]


Burhanistan: "I can read QR codes with the naked eye."

Whose?
posted by Splunge at 12:18 PM on March 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


I've long wanted to hang up some QR stickers around town that, when scanned, take you to a web site that says nothing but "What the fuck is wrong with you?"
posted by bondcliff at 12:23 PM on March 4, 2012 [76 favorites]


> Whose?

Dunno, they weren't labeled by name at the organ harvesting clinic. But, you can wire them to a standard USB OTG connector if you reverse pins 3 and 4. I suppose you could get fancy and embed a Bluetooth radio in them, but I like the look of the eyeball dangling from my phone.
posted by Burhanistan at 12:25 PM on March 4, 2012 [17 favorites]


Our university print shop reversed the QR code (black:white flip) when they edited our pamphlet, saying the text looked better white on black than black on white. Then they printed 500 copies of it without checking. Then they refused to reprint them.

I mean, who cares because no one ever scans the stupid things, but still. It's fucking amazing we noticed either, actually.
posted by Rumple at 12:26 PM on March 4, 2012 [8 favorites]


OMG Barcode Battler! I had one of those and it was a precious, precious possession.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 12:26 PM on March 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Is the blog right - do only 1% of people bother to scan them? (I know I never have)

I'd be shocked if it were that many.
posted by empath at 12:27 PM on March 4, 2012 [4 favorites]


For an actually kind of cool use of the tech, check this out.

I suppose an app that instead used clickable icons of groceries that were added to a shopping cart would be impractical, for some reason.
posted by ShutterBun at 12:29 PM on March 4, 2012


I'd be surprised if 1% of people knew WHAT WITH and HOW to scan QR codes.

Or if 1% of those actually wanted to do it.
posted by delfin at 12:29 PM on March 4, 2012


Last year we got some great wrapping paper that had QR codes that all lead to different funny Christmas videos.

It is funny how people in media don't seem to understand what a QR code does! As an email signature?
posted by JayNolan at 12:30 PM on March 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is probably one of those things where simply having a QR code is enough to impress a certain type of person, who won't scan it either, but will remember that you were forward thinking enough to have one.
posted by codacorolla at 12:30 PM on March 4, 2012 [17 favorites]


The ads of a local cinema here often feature QR codes that are supposed to link to movie trailers. More often than not, they apparently forget to change the default URLs for their QR codes, and you get a YouTube cat video instead.
posted by Harry at 12:31 PM on March 4, 2012 [4 favorites]


I'm always on the lookout for codes that take advantage of the format's built in error-correction redundancies to embed pixel art, but so few people seem to be aware of that trick. Equestria Daily's QR Code is one good example.
posted by radwolf76 at 12:32 PM on March 4, 2012 [4 favorites]


For an actually kind of cool use of the tech, check this out.


Yeah that makes no sense to me. If you're using a special app with a database of the products to scan the codes on a large billboard, wouldn't it be easier to just look at the products within the app and select them that way? You could do it anywhere, instead of standing in front of a billboard while others jostled around you attempting to do the same thing.
posted by modernnomad at 12:34 PM on March 4, 2012


The silliest use of QR codes I've seen: Simon Hopkinson's otherwise brilliant programme The Good Cook used them as links to ingredients lists and recipes. Did the producers really expect folk to press pause (assuming they could), walk over to the telly, fish out their 'phone and scan the screen? Bonkers.

That said, I did see a genuinely sensible use of them the other day.
posted by jack_mo at 12:35 PM on March 4, 2012 [5 favorites]


Can't they just make a program which reads URLs from images if it bothers people so much to type them in? Then you can use it on anything, and those without the right phone can still access it.
posted by Jehan at 12:36 PM on March 4, 2012


I've long wanted to hang up some QR stickers around town that, when scanned, take you to a web site that says nothing but "What the fuck is wrong with you?"

Send them to Zombo.com

You can do anything at Zombo.com. Anything at all.
posted by Naberius at 12:36 PM on March 4, 2012 [36 favorites]


True story: I had a watch that displayed the current time as a QR code. To read it, you would just point your smart phone at it while running the qr scanning app and it would tell you the time.
posted by autopilot at 12:37 PM on March 4, 2012 [12 favorites]


The CBC has been using QR Codes during the "Power & Politics" daily show -- scanning the code sneds you to a website to vote on whatever issue they are talking about that day. But it's kind of stupid because you can't scan them from the comfort of your sofa, since the brightness of the TV blinds the smartphone camera (at least the Iphone 4S's) to the details of the code. So you have to get up and try and do it close to the screen, and just hope they don't cut to commerciai as you're trying to line everything up. It's trying to be techy and clever for the sake of being techy and clever, iwthout really thinking it through.
posted by modernnomad at 12:39 PM on March 4, 2012


I scan them to download apps. Not a fucking iPhone which I would sooner die than own, but for my Windows Phone and my BlackBerry.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 12:40 PM on March 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


True story (and a good example of QR code fail)...

Several months back, my wife and I went to a local pub for dinner. She likes the place for their tenderloin sandwich. I like the place for their dozens of microbrews on-tap.

We get to our table and the waitress asks if we would like a drink. I reach for the beer list sitting where it always is, nestled between the salt and pepper shakers. However, instead of a handy beer list, this is a placecard with big QR code festooned upon it, and cheery "ain't we too cool?" text explaining that now I could read the beer list by simply scanning the QR code into my smartphone, read it with a free reader, and go to their website and the beer list.

Oh, FFS.

Except...I don't own a smartphone. And, even if I did, I don't see why I should use it just to order a fucking beer. They took a quick and simple process and, through the magic of technology, made it unnecessarily complex. And, for customers who, like me, are not on the smartphone bandwagon, highly frustrating and alienating. QRs are a solution looking desperately for a problem

It took them a few minutes, but they finally found a physical beer list.
posted by Thorzdad at 12:45 PM on March 4, 2012 [43 favorites]


There's an alarm clock for Android that uses QR codes...you print out the code and place it somewhere else in your house. When your alarm goes off in the morning, only scanning the code will turn it off.
posted by Ian A.T. at 12:55 PM on March 4, 2012 [36 favorites]


I had no idea this would be so easy. I don't have a scanner on my phone, can someone tell me if this link says what I want it to say?

Send them to Zombo.com

Is that a joke? All I get is a Spanish guy saying "Welcome to Zombo.com" over and over again. He sounds... sexy.
posted by bondcliff at 12:58 PM on March 4, 2012 [12 favorites]


There's an alarm clock for Android that uses QR codes...you print out the code and place it somewhere else in your house. When your alarm goes off in the morning, only scanning the code will turn it off.

This is actually a genius idea.
posted by winna at 1:00 PM on March 4, 2012 [10 favorites]


QR codes come from the sort of minds who think that making the world run "efficiently" is a process of reducing us all to the appendages of mechanical devices into which efficiency can be programmed. The sorts of people who complain when technology becomes more accessible to the layman, because they can't see why people who are incapable of using computers right now ought to be given the privilege of using them at all.
posted by Rory Marinich at 1:02 PM on March 4, 2012 [6 favorites]


Is scanning a QR code really easier than remembering a domain name

Yes. Particularly if you're going to be getting on with your day and may not have time to think about that thing you saw for several days afterward.

(Aside: the practice of using domain names for every product, service, movie or slogan is really a sad, if inevitable, misapplication of the domain name system. Not that QR codes are going to make a dent in that. And most alternatives [twitter hashtags, facebook pages and even aol keywords if you remember them] are worse in the 'cluttered global namespace' department)
posted by George_Spiggott at 1:04 PM on March 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


QR codes are hilarious. And proponents of them are the type that are into tech that actually makes shit more difficult and confusing.

They are the same sort of marketers that are really into "Crowdsourcing! Social Networking! I have an idea, you guys ... a flash mob*!"

They learned in a webinar about QR codes and got really super excited. Now they use them for everything because it's the future of marketing! But they don't really know how people actually use them,or what a pain in the ass they are. And it's really awkward and sad and makes everyone kind of uncomfortable because they are so proud of themselves for using technology and being so smart.



*We got a memo about a flash mob. I slowly and quietly lowered my head to the desk. Witnesses were unsure whether I was laughing or sobbing, as was I.
posted by louche mustachio at 1:07 PM on March 4, 2012 [8 favorites]


QR codes have their uses, albeit a bit limited. Was looking at a local piece of real estate. There was a handout with a long-ish url for the property but there was also a QR code. And that brought up the web page for the house in seconds on my Android phone and was kinda nice.

Thats the only time I"ve scaned one in the wild though.
posted by honestcoyote at 1:07 PM on March 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


do only 1% of people bother to scan them?

My company participated in the Windows Phone Launch parties. We got 45% conversion, meaning that 45% of the people there scanned them and ran through the mobile experience we produced that the QR code launched into.

So, caveats: At the MS event, we had guys there to hold hands with people, show them that they needed to install a QR scanner, and assure them that their odds of winning a prize at the end were very good. Lots didn't, though, and it was a tech-savvy crowd.

Overall, the QR triggers were considered very successful, and quite easy to scan even in the semi-darkened room. That's mainly a question of the quality of the scanner used. The QR format is meant to be resilient, meaning you can get a very degraded picture of it on your phone and it's still interpreted correctly. Some take advantage of this to embed logos in the center of the QR and have them still work.

None of that means that spraying your QR everywhere will work miracles for you, but as part of a properly managed process they work pretty well.
posted by fatbird at 1:08 PM on March 4, 2012


QR codes are a neat technical achievement. They have not, however, found a particularly useful niche. It's mostly "fumble with your mobile phone in order to continue viewing advertising"...
posted by jepler at 1:08 PM on March 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


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posted by This_Will_Be_Good at 1:10 PM on March 4, 2012 [11 favorites]


Oh, there's a QR code! Let me spend the next 30 seconds retrieving my personal computing device, locating the appropriate app, launching it, and waiting for the camera to wake up from it's eternal slumber. Then, let me spend the next 60 seconds failing to find just the right combination of lighting, camera focus, and zoom to attempt a scan. Then take me to a useless mobile site with five sentences of marketroid on it.

And to top it all off, it's more opaque and baroque than a simple URL shortener! There may be specialized circumstances where QR codes have some utility, but their use in marketing is the worst sort of tech wankery since the CueCat.

I'm surprised that Cafe Press isn't selling sheets of various sized QR code stickers that lead to Goatse yet. It's only a matter of time.
posted by Llama-Lime at 1:12 PM on March 4, 2012 [12 favorites]


I can see how QR codes, used carefully and positioned cleverly, might be used as a part of an alternate reality game. I can also see how most of the uses illustrated on the blog are indeed very silly.

But I don't have a smart-phone, so I don't understand some of the complaints. Is this really so problematic? Or this? I thought the whole point of QR codes was that they were super-robust and were decode-able even from crappy pictures, such as you might snap with your phone from the train.

And obviously these people are targeting users of Google Maps (et al), not astronauts. That's actually sort of a clever hacker trick which unfortunately is probably not going to point the person who bothers to decode it anyplace interesting. But it doesn't seem egregiously stupid.
posted by Western Infidels at 1:12 PM on March 4, 2012


see? a neat technical achievement.
posted by jepler at 1:12 PM on March 4, 2012


I was just having the conversation about how people lose their freakin minds and all sense when it comes to technology. Some people just get a hard on for any tech, some are afraid to look dumb, most are convinced it’s the futures and they don’t want to be left out.
posted by bongo_x at 1:13 PM on March 4, 2012


Is scanning a QR code really easier than remembering a domain name?

When I'm walking down the street and who knows what I'll be thinking of when I next get to a computer? Yes. Frankly, I'm not sure what people expect from these, but to me they can work as a convenient IRL -> PC bridge.
posted by rhizome at 1:15 PM on March 4, 2012


I don't tend to use QR codes, but I don't have a hate on for them either.

They're a tool. Sometimes people misuse the tools they are given.
posted by cjorgensen at 1:16 PM on March 4, 2012 [6 favorites]


What someone should really do is send out free scanners to read these things with! Give them away at Radio Shack or something. I’m going to try and get some investors in my free scanner business.
posted by bongo_x at 1:16 PM on March 4, 2012 [12 favorites]


As someone who designs print ads, these ugly ass things screw up almost any layout. I hate them even more than the damn parade of Facebook, Twitter, Yelp icons that I am instructed to include.
posted by a humble nudibranch at 1:18 PM on March 4, 2012 [5 favorites]


Oh, there's a QR code! Let me spend the next 30 seconds retrieving my personal computing device, locating the appropriate app, launching it, and waiting for the camera to wake up from it's eternal slumber. Then, let me spend the next 60 seconds failing to find just the right combination of lighting, camera focus, and zoom to attempt a scan.

Bit too much exaggeration for rhetorical effect there. I've only snapped a couple of QR codes in the real world in my life, but it was: pull out phone, tap app icon, point camera at code, tap again, put phone away. 10 seconds. Way easier than choosing a notes app and transcribing a URL accurately on a soft keyboard with your thumbs. Prior to QR apps I used to photograph business names and even URLs. I still photograph things as a memory aid, and QR codes require a lot less manual postprocessing afterward to get the information into a usable form.
posted by George_Spiggott at 1:22 PM on March 4, 2012 [7 favorites]


(I just spent 10 minutes trying and failing to read This_Will_Be_Good's Unicode QR code with my phone. oh the shame)
posted by jepler at 1:22 PM on March 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


My new cutting-edge marketing company specializes in radio ads... in Morse code! Just download our special software and then when you hear the familiar bleeps and blips during your favourite broadcast, whip out your smartphone to decode the special message! With today's technology, everyone is carrying a morse-code capable device in their pocket!
posted by oulipian at 1:23 PM on March 4, 2012 [7 favorites]


Let's not forget Microsoft Tags, too. I've had to frankenstein a few of those into ads, myself.
posted by Thorzdad at 1:23 PM on March 4, 2012


If it makes you feel any better, I spent more time trying to get my phone to focus on it to check if it actually worked than I did making it.
posted by This_Will_Be_Good at 1:24 PM on March 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Can't they just make a program which reads URLs from images if it bothers people so much to type them in?

Fifteen years ago when they were developed, probably not. But these days phones have the CPU (and camera resolution) to do OCR. Nowadays I think it would make more sense to replace the QR code symbology with a glyph that acts as a "start scanning here" location+orientation+scale mark, a restricted set of fonts and keep-clear zones, and maybe some minimal ECC glyphs. Then you'd have something that was both human- and machine-readable, and the "start scanning here" glyph could replace the painful attempts that graphic designers make to indicate that something is a URL (the pixelized arrow or hand cursors, the various globe icons, etc).

OTOH, 2D barcodes like QR codes and datamatrix weren't originally developed for getting URLs into smartphones; they were developed for things like package tracking, serial/lot number and date code markings on parts, that kind of thing.
posted by hattifattener at 1:24 PM on March 4, 2012 [6 favorites]


The one where the QR code is broken up between panels is GOLD.
posted by Wataki at 1:28 PM on March 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Bit too much exaggeration for rhetorical effect there. I've only snapped a couple of QR codes in the real world in my life, but it was: pull out phone, tap app icon, point camera at code, tap again, put phone away. 10 seconds.
next comment:
(I just spent 10 minutes trying and failing to read This_Will_Be_Good's Unicode QR code with my phone. oh the shame)
I can't describe how vindicated I feel right now.
posted by Llama-Lime at 1:31 PM on March 4, 2012


indicate that something is a URL

Doesn’t www. do that? OCR just look for that, what else could it possibly become confused with?
posted by bongo_x at 1:31 PM on March 4, 2012


I want to get a QR code that I tell people is Android for "Strength" or "Rock and Roll" but it really just reads "Zoosk.com."
posted by mccarty.tim at 1:33 PM on March 4, 2012 [10 favorites]


Does the QR code comment say anything? I gave up after 2 minutes with a well reviewed QR code reader...
posted by mccarty.tim at 1:34 PM on March 4, 2012


I can't describe how vindicated I feel right now.

It's okay, there's a QR code for that.
posted by George_Spiggott at 1:35 PM on March 4, 2012


I'm surprised that Cafe Press isn't selling sheets of various sized QR code stickers that lead to Goatse yet.

Oh...this is so do-able.
posted by Thorzdad at 1:38 PM on March 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


There should be a QR code that leads to another QR code that leads to yet another QR code. After much awkward copying and pasting between QR tools, or using two smartphones, you finally get a gif of a pug licking the screen.
posted by mccarty.tim at 1:40 PM on March 4, 2012 [5 favorites]


PS: I meant QR code tattoo at 4:33.
posted by mccarty.tim at 1:40 PM on March 4, 2012


Does the QR code comment say anything? I gave up after 2 minutes with a well reviewed QR code reader...

Mine keeps insisting it is not a qr code but a barcode, so you're not alone.
posted by winna at 1:41 PM on March 4, 2012


Does the QR code comment say anything?

It scanned as "14392474" for me on one run and as "08462190" on a second, both times showing up as format UPC_E (ie. a barcode). So, what winna said.
posted by tarheelcoxn at 1:43 PM on March 4, 2012


I have 5 different apps that supposedly can scan QR codes. It worked in one of them. And that one only worked when I rested my elbows on my laptop, aligned my torso with the screen, and then used my nose to focus the camera a few minutes after my hands stopped shaking.
posted by This_Will_Be_Good at 1:49 PM on March 4, 2012


Also while we all are playing with our qr code scanners, try scanning the qr code icon on wtf qr codes. It is droll!
posted by winna at 1:50 PM on March 4, 2012


I don't tend to use QR codes, but I don't have a hate on for them either.

They're a tool. Sometimes people misuse the tools they are given.
This deserves a serious response. Some tools deserve derision, to be "hated upon" and generally squashed out of general use. Specifically, use of tools that are widely misused and have easier replacements should be discouraged. This is a crucial part of the process of technological advancement. Take the GOTO, for example. In 1968, Djikstra wrote a controversial piece called Go To Considered Harmful that has since become accepted wisdom. I.e., every college freshman and novice programmer knows that they had better not let anyone catch them using one. But if you go look at solid code written by good programmers in the C language, you will find GOTOs scattered here and there despite gotos supposedly being harmful.

It is only because of the societal approbation associated with GOTO, that it can remain a useful tool. It means that GOTO is only used in cases where it actually is the appropriate tool. Without those approbation, GOTO would be used in all sorts of inappropriate cases. Why do people use GOTO inappropriately? Because it's super easy to create code with GOTOs, and may even make the programmer feel smart. But it's extremely difficult to read and modify code with GOTOs; they are a huge barrier. Novices think that this complexity is a sign of good code, when in fact it's just the opposite.

QR Codes are a marketer's GOTO. To the person who creates them, they are simple and seem clever. To people who encounter them, they don't make any sense and are a huge pain in the ass. QR codes considered harmful.
posted by Llama-Lime at 1:54 PM on March 4, 2012 [9 favorites]


what else could it possibly become confused with?

wwwhat else?
posted by grog at 1:55 PM on March 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Particularly if you're going to be getting on with your day and may not have time to think about that thing you saw for several days afterward.

Hmm. I might not remember that URL.

/me takes picture of ad

Oh, yeah, that URL -- and I remember why I was interested, too!

Context: It does an advert good.
posted by eriko at 1:56 PM on March 4, 2012


Does the QR code comment say anything? I gave up after 2 minutes with a well reviewed QR code reader…

How about this one?

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posted by stance at 2:00 PM on March 4, 2012


-Is the blog right - do only 1% of people bother to scan them? (I know I never have)

The same people who would actually scan a QR code on the back of a bag of kale are the same people who would legitimately enjoy becoming Facebook friends with kale. So this actually works out pretty well.

Wait? You mean all those people have actually not been following the "mmLrpg" reporting on "the" the$projectundergroundRevolution (some say they want to release animals from zoos), accessed only through following a maze of QR codes, as seen in magazines, sign-posts, mall's of America and local bulletin boards... I for one fear our new designer revolutionary vanguards hidden agendas. The revolution will not be 2d barcoded...

It will be better then the online game where if you watched every trailer, you could find codes, codes which would be entered to win more codes, which, if you combined with codes on the inside of pepsi cans, mail in the upcs', in a SASE, with four dollars, and you could be entered for a draw to win a chance to answer a skill testing question, for a booklet of coupons, good for four dollars off your next pepsi purchase, marketing "game" from, maybe, terminator 3; Twelve Monkees Pulp Fiction.
-Steganography (see also; Cat image extracted from tree image). Coded tongues all the way down.
Human readable seems pretty needed for advertising to humans (willfully omitting url seems like a "cliche" of using QRs, like, "this is so nifty and new we can't even let you read it"). Packaging shipping labels are cool, they ought to be decently obfuscated.
posted by infinite intimation at 2:01 PM on March 4, 2012


Doesn’t www. do that? OCR just look for that, what else could it possibly become confused with?

OCR is a finicky thing. Under reasonably good conditions it works pretty well, under excellent conditions it can work very well. Part of the goodness of the conditions is the software being used, part of it is the quality of the imaging, and part of it is the assumptions in place about what's being done.

www. should work great unless (a) www. doesn't register cleanly or (b) something that isn't actually www. registers as such. So you've got false negatives and false positives to deal with. And you've got to account for different typefaces and weights and so on—OCR is dumb except where you teach it to be otherwise, so it doesn't know that a serifed Garamond "w" is the same thing as a serifless Helvetica w, etc.

And so on. Finicky. You want something that works very well under the widest variety of conditionss, and a 2D barcode with built-in error tolerance and explicit registration/orientation points is a pretty good way to go there. (A traditional 1D barcode is even better. That's why they're so widely used. They barely contain any info, so you're stuck tying them to an external database for them to even do anything, but: you can print that shit on a carton of eggs and it'll scan right on the first time from a variety of angles at the grocery store.)

QR codes, silly as they are in practice as something that's more a solution in search of a problem than anything anyone's been clamoring for, do do a good job of solving some of the technical problems with grabbing an image from an arbitrary spot with an arbitrary device under meh conditions. Not perfectly maybe, but it's way, way more robust than trying to OCR random strings of text.
posted by cortex at 2:01 PM on March 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


I have a QR code on the back of my business card that contains my contact details in vcard format. With the correct scanning app (and more are supporting it everyday), a person can scan my card and I automatically become a contact in their phone.
posted by Jacob G at 2:01 PM on March 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


QR Codes are a marketer's GOTO. To the person who creates them, they are simple and seem clever. To people who encounter them, they don't make any sense and are a huge pain in the ass. QR codes considered harmful.

This is silly.

First off, they're not a pain in the ass because, as part of advertising, they force nothing on you. if they're a pain in the ass, you don't have to do anything at all with them. Ignore them just like you do 95% of the content of all the other advertising that you see. No one is requiring you to scan them to get into the event or view their poster.

Second, they solve a very real problem, namely that any URL longer than a domain name can't be usefully included or reproduced anywhere. They bridge print and venue advertising to the web effectively if you've got a scanner and you're used to it.

The single flaw with QR codes that may fatally compromise them is that the phone manufacturers didn't include QR readers as features of their cameras--that's really all that QR scanners are, just OCR modules on image processors. That introduces a pain-in-the-ass step of downloading a scanner, but that's hardly the fault of the format.

GOTOs were harmful because structuring code with them meant not structuring code in more effective and maintainable ways. They had real-world consequences that were better avoided. If QRs disappeared tomorrow, advertising and marketing would not be improved, and in many cases noticeably degraded, namely where the QR actually starts a useful web thing off the advertising.
posted by fatbird at 2:04 PM on March 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


Since you can sort of "store" data in a QR, could someone make a turing machine with like, alchemy, mirrors, smartphones, and business cards?
posted by infinite intimation at 2:04 PM on March 4, 2012


                                                            
                                                            
                                                            
                                                            
        XXXXXXXXXXXXXX      XX  XX  XXXXXXXXXXXXXX          
        XX          XX  XXXXXX      XX          XX          
        XX  XXXXXX  XX  XX  XXXX    XX  XXXXXX  XX          
        XX  XXXXXX  XX    XX  XX    XX  XXXXXX  XX          
        XX  XXXXXX  XX  XXXXXX  XX  XX  XXXXXX  XX          
        XX          XX  XXXXXX      XX          XX          
        XXXXXXXXXXXXXX  XX  XX  XX  XXXXXXXXXXXXXX          
                        XX                                  
        XXXX  XX    XXXX    XXXX    XXXXXX  XXXX            
        XXXX    XXXX    XX  XXXXXXXXXX  XXXXXXXXXX          
        XX    XXXX  XXXX  XXXXXXXXXX          XX            
        XXXXXXXX  XX    XXXXXX    XXXX  XXXX    XX          
            XX  XXXXXX      XXXXXX      XX      XX          
                        XXXX      XXXX  XX    XXXX          
        XXXXXXXXXXXXXX  XX  XXXX            XX              
        XX          XX        XXXX  XXXXXX  XX  XX          
        XX  XXXXXX  XX    XXXXXX        XXXX  XX            
        XX  XXXXXX  XX  XXXX          XXXX  XXXXXX          
        XX  XXXXXX  XX    XX  XX        XXXXXX  XX          
        XX          XX  XX      XX  XX  XX  XX  XX          
        XXXXXXXXXXXXXX  XXXXXXXXXXXX  XX                    
                                                            
                                                            
                                                            
                                                            

posted by autopilot at 2:04 PM on March 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


A version of 'where's george" for reused cardboard boxes.
posted by idiopath at 2:04 PM on March 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


(Hmm, that scanned for me with the professional white background option in preview, but it won't scan again... Maybe if the line-height property on the pre block were reduced to 75% it would be more consistent?)
posted by autopilot at 2:11 PM on March 4, 2012


silly as they are in practice as something that's more a solution in search of a problem than anything anyone's been clamoring for

That’s really all I’m talking about. I know I’m not the target audience here. I will never have a use for this stuff, and if I do I’ll have to muddle though somehow. I don’t even have a smart phone and don’t plan on getting one.

I’m just amused by the fact that companies have been trying to make this same idea happen for the last 20 years in spite of two major flaws;
1.No one wants it.
2.No one needs it.
Oh, and no one cares. But somewhere there are guys pulling their hair out because they think an ad trick has gone unused.
posted by bongo_x at 2:12 PM on March 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ahahaha the main link has some really funny misues of QR.

Also, don't be a luddite! QRs can be handy. And if your phone isn't reading them, I suggest you get some better software of better phone: actually I am reading this post from a tablet PC, I took the phone (sony arc) pointed it at the tablet and it scanned almost all the QRs in the main link flawlessy in a snap, tho it possibly wouldn't work on very small targets while moving.

Now for something entirely different:

1) Replace QR you can find on the streets with QRs leading somewhere else - example: Rush Limbaugh's printed advert, change its QR to point to a "Dominican Republic Underage Sex Tour" link! Fun will ensue!

2) You get the basic principle: QRs aren't human readable, and that's a very weak spot!
posted by elpapacito at 2:15 PM on March 4, 2012 [9 favorites]


autopilot -- yours worked for me, and way simpler too!!

Apparently the iPhone app "Pic2Shop" which I have never used until today, is the master of crappy QR codes.
posted by This_Will_Be_Good at 2:15 PM on March 4, 2012


You know what I blame this on the breakdown of?

Area codes.

Used to be, you could set a seven-digit phone number to a catchy tune, and people would call it and do business with you. Now we've got overlay codes, so we have to dial at least ten numbers to call inside our own area.

But hooray! The internet is a thing! Let's put URLs on stuff! But, oh no! People aren't going to our totally useless websites for some reason! They must be forgetting the address! Good thing there's these weird unreadable splotches we can use that a few of the few people who have these special phones and know what these splotches are and how to use thier special phones to scan them can use their special phones to scan the splotches and maybe sometimes the scanning will work and they'll go to our totally useless website that way! Yay, marketing!
posted by Sys Rq at 2:17 PM on March 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


A version of 'where's george" for reused cardboard boxes.

Heh, I clicked around some of the entries, and was surprised that nearly all of them involved the Columbia clothing company. I was impressed that they'd engage with something grassroots-y like this. Then I saw the copyright notice at the bottom of the site.
posted by roll truck roll at 2:19 PM on March 4, 2012


QR codes are a neat technical achievement. They have not, however, found a particularly useful niche. It's mostly "fumble with your mobile phone in order to continue viewing advertising"...

Its just the opposite actually. They serve many different niches and address different but related needs, but they don't do it very well at all.

What's clear is that people want a way to link digital content/information to real objects in the physical world. We've come to realize that the solution will involve mobile phones, but we haven't figured out a way to do it easily, quickly, and conveniently. We can do it, but only at the most basic, functional level, with QR codes.

I don't know much about NFC technology, but it seems like that that technology has the potential to do what QR codes are used for but in a way that is faster, simpler, and more convenient for users.
posted by AceRock at 2:20 PM on March 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Does the QR code comment say anything?

It's a link to a very important website. I'm on a macbook and I was able to scan it with my HTC phone by inverting the display (in "Universal Access", do white on black) and shrinking the font way down in chrome. Thanks This Will Be Good - it was.

I actually like QR codes. They're a nice solution to the problem of entering text into mobile devices. I once interviewed a candidate who had his entire vcard (not just a link, so you didn't need a network connection) on his resume. Of course, the HR system had converted his resume to word and reprinted it, and in the process reduced the size of the QR code and introduced compression artifacts so it became unscannable.

I think some people are down on QR codes because early iphones didn't really have cameras good enough to use them. Modern smartphone cameras have autofocus, and it usually never takes me more than a few seconds to scan a code.

Fifteen years ago when they were developed, probably not. But these days phones have the CPU (and camera resolution) to do OCR. Nowadays I think it would make more sense to replace the QR code symbology with a glyph that acts as a "start scanning here" location+orientation+scale mark, a restricted set of fonts and keep-clear zones, and maybe some minimal ECC glyphs. Then you'd have something that was both human- and machine-readable, and the "start scanning here" glyph could replace the painful attempts that graphic designers make to indicate that something is a URL (the pixelized arrow or hand cursors, the various globe icons, etc).

This, absolutely. If I have time, I'm totally stealing this idea.
posted by heathkit at 2:28 PM on March 4, 2012


Robot Barf
posted by device55 at 2:28 PM on March 4, 2012


I'm surprised that Cafe Press isn't selling sheets of various sized QR code stickers that lead to Goatse yet.


There could be a really fun meta ARG of scanning in QR codes that sometimes lead to clues or funny cat videos but sometimes lead to ...distressing imagery, which would totally work and be doable if anyone on earth actually used the things.
posted by The Whelk at 2:28 PM on March 4, 2012


This video explains an interesting possible use for the codes as digital background markers that wouldn't be actively used by humans.
posted by odinsdream at 2:34 PM on March 4, 2012


You must all have crappy phones. On mine, it takes 14 seconds to unlock, click on shortcut, point, scan and get the browser to start loading the page.

At work every employee is issued a smart phone. Every flyer posted throughout the office has a qr code. You want to attend a tech talk? Scan the code in the flyer, click "will attend". The event is now in your calendar.

Want to reserve a conference room? Scan the code on the door, check the schedule and make a reservation in under a minute.

We have a very easy to use tool for qr code generation, I put one on my business card that links to a page were you can get my full contact info in a variety of formats. Most people find it easier to scan the code than creating a contact manually.

It is lazy to hate a technology because a bunch if marketers and print designers don't know how to use it.
posted by Ayn Rand and God at 2:36 PM on March 4, 2012 [10 favorites]


I would love QR codes if I had the cyborg eyes I've been dreaming of ever since I was 5 years old. Otherwise, meh.
posted by elizardbits at 2:37 PM on March 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't know much about NFC technology, but it seems like that that technology has the potential to do what QR codes are used for but in a way that is faster, simpler, and more convenient for users.

I don't see how. You can put a barcode anywhere you can put ink, or even any other marking. Most of the time you're putting the barcode in a place you were already printing other stuff, so adding the barcode costs you nothing except the opportunity to put more markings in that space. For NFC/RFID, you need to include a relatively expensive, delicate, and logistically bothersome object into your advertisement / object.
posted by hattifattener at 2:38 PM on March 4, 2012


The QR code is here to stay. Even though it is often misused or unused.
posted by humanfont at 2:41 PM on March 4, 2012


Hattifattener, that is a good point. But it addresses only half of the issue (supply side). On the demand side, on the user needs side, it take 14 seconds to unlock, click a shortcut, scan, etc. That is an eternity. Either we figure out a way to make scanning them faster, or we figure out a way to make NFC/RFID less expensive (or we figure out something completely new).

What we have right now is a nail (the need to link the digital to the physical) in search of a hammer (or a nail gun). What we're using right now is a big unwieldy rock someone found in a Toyota factory.
posted by AceRock at 2:50 PM on March 4, 2012


I'm trying to imagine a modern day Don Draper's reaction to his creatives pitching an ad campaign with QR codes.

I'm not sure if he'd react with a simple withering glance or if he'd take the time to humiliate everyone in the room.

Obviously there are places where this kind of technology can solve problems. The example above of a (clearly) very tech savvy office using QR codes for various meat-space is a logical extension of using them in a factory or warehouse. But that example requires all employees to be issued smartphones, all employees to know how to use them, and all employees be trained and willing to accept this particular office culture. (why scanning the physical door of a physical conference room is more efficient than scheduling a meeting in Outlook without getting up from your desk, I don't know.)

The problem is the use of QR codes in advertising - which is all amount communicating quickly, effectively, and on an emotional level with a customer.

You must all have crappy phones. On mine, it takes 14 seconds to unlock, click on shortcut, point, scan and get the browser to start loading the page.

If it took 4 seconds to scan a code that's still much slower than you can read or be emotionally affected by potent imagery.

The process of scanning a QR code takes you out of the zone - you're no longer looking at the ad - you're dinking with your phone. This is assuming you know what a QR code is and can be bothered to use it. Most people don't know what it is or what it's for. It doesn't matter how easy it might be. It's unintelligible gibberish taking up valuable space.
posted by device55 at 2:55 PM on March 4, 2012 [6 favorites]


You know what might work. If instead of printing QR codes on ads, you instead put something like "To find out more, ask Siri to search for [nonsense phrase]" where the top result would lead to the page you'd want the user to go.
posted by AceRock at 2:57 PM on March 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


(I had meant to note as well in my comment above that one significant problem with the "just look for 'www.' as a registration point and OCR the url" scheme is that even assuming a satisfactory rate of locating the prefix string, your success rate for OCRing the entire url without error will not necessarily keep up. And one character misidentified means you're going to the wrong URL—either a 404 error on the right domain, or the wrong domain entirely. There's no error tolerance in a plain-text URL. Data schemes like what QR codes use have fault tolerance here built in.)
posted by cortex at 2:59 PM on March 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


I just prefer to mutter to one of the ubiquitous audio pickups of the Great Hyperlobic Omni-Cognate Neutron Wrangler of Ciceronicus 121, "what was that thing I was looking at the other day?" And its context processors and universal knowledge of everything everywhere allows it to tell me what it was and calculate whether I want it. It can also instantly compute a years-long multisensory simulation of what it would be like if i had it, which it can electromagnetically implant in my brain so that I have memories of actually owning, using, and eventually tiring of the thing, so I save money by not buying it.

1No points for catching the reference
posted by George_Spiggott at 2:59 PM on March 4, 2012


Are there really people out there who not only want to be Facebook friends with a bag of kale, but who would refuse to do so if they had to type in "ilikekale.com" (it's available, enjoy!) instead of firing up their QR code scanner, carefully flattening out the bag, lining up to take a photo, and hoping this won't be a repeat of the time they were defriended by the cauliflower?
posted by zachlipton at 3:03 PM on March 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


I think the kind of person who would do that is exponentially more likely to be a QR code fanatic than they are to be a kale fanatic, which is problematic.
posted by empath at 3:07 PM on March 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm actually adding a feature to my urban farm management software package that creates QR code labels on each bag of produce. The customer can scan the QR code and see the complete record of the produce, from seed to market. Or they can just type in a 6 digit code on the website by hand. One of my good friends threatened to never talk to me again when I mentioned the QR code bit. We'll see how well it works.
posted by ChrisHartley at 3:11 PM on March 4, 2012 [5 favorites]


Or they can just type in a 6 digit code on the website by hand.

In this case the QR code is a supplement to human readable information - additionally that QR code could be used by anyone along your supply chain in some automated process. So here, the QR code makes perfect sense.

Use a sane URL like www.foodz.com/search/123456 and then one could easily google your brand name and the number and go right to the info too.
posted by device55 at 3:17 PM on March 4, 2012


We'll see how well it works.
I think it worked pretty well in Japan when I first heard of this use six years ago. Maybe it’s the alphabet or the lack of street names, but QR codes were completely ubiquitous for this kind of location / thing-history use in the mid-aughts. Not sure if they still are.
posted by migurski at 3:23 PM on March 4, 2012


How hard would it be to create a program that used the camera on a smartphone to just read the goddamn URL as writ? Instead of this bizarro square, you just point your phone at www.example.com and off it goes?
posted by chavenet at 3:31 PM on March 4, 2012


Sorry, I don't speak cyborg.
posted by Slackermagee at 3:35 PM on March 4, 2012


@defenestration: I'm a programmer with the City of Regina. We're going to use QR Codes to link incoming paper scanned documents so that the processing of those documents and linking to customer accounts is done through the QR Code without the need for human intervention. I also found that QR codes are easier to scan than bar codes when using my Samsung Galaxy S phone.
posted by DetriusXii at 3:53 PM on March 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


How hard would it be to create a program that used the camera on a smartphone to just read the goddamn URL as writ? Instead of this bizarro square, you just point your phone at www.example.com and off it goes?
Significantly harder than it is to read QR codes, mainly because of the lack of redundancy and error correction in URLs. Is a letter in the address a lowercase-L, or an uppercase-i? Even if you can figure out where the text begins and ends, you're still stuck with these kinds of ambiguities. QR codes solve that, with a configurable level of damage-tolerance.
posted by migurski at 3:57 PM on March 4, 2012


How hard would it be to create a program that used the camera on a smartphone to just read the goddamn URL as writ? Instead of this bizarro square, you just point your phone at www.example.com and off it goes? - posted by chavenet at 6:31 PM

How hard would it be to create a program that used a QR code to attack your smartphone? Say, make your phone dial/text to some ridiculous fee-based service, and then a month later you wonder what the hell is on your phone bill? Does this exist yet?

I mean, reading the QR code that leads to goatse seems like the least of things to worry about.
posted by AsYouKnow Bob at 4:00 PM on March 4, 2012


That said, fonts designed for optical character recognition do exist, but to me it’s a toss-up whether they’re aesthetically any less jarring than barcodes.
posted by migurski at 4:09 PM on March 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


odinsdream: "This video explains an interesting possible use for the codes as digital background markers that wouldn't be actively used by humans."

The clock is cool and all, but I'll be happy to wait until the robots are smart enough to read what I can read. That way I don't need "robot code" plastered all over to distract and annoy me.

QR codes seem to me to be useful only when they need to span areas where humans speak different languages, and, even then, every person who will encounter them will need to know what they are and also have an affordable way to quickly decipher them. Order processing and shipment seems to fit that bill, but RFID will soon make them obsolete in even that realm.

I think QR codes are just the "newest tech/marketing play thing" that will be abandoned just as the Cuecat was.
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 4:17 PM on March 4, 2012


Scan here for this thread or roll the dice.
posted by unliteral at 4:24 PM on March 4, 2012


I'll stick with wishing for an img tag, no ascii QR codes for moi.
posted by jeffburdges at 4:25 PM on March 4, 2012


oh no you di'int
posted by unliteral at 4:32 PM on March 4, 2012


How hard would it be to create a program that used a QR code to attack your smartphone? Say, make your phone dial/text to some ridiculous fee-based service, and then a month later you wonder what the hell is on your phone bill?

Either very hard or very easy, depending on how you look at it.

Very hard, because a QR code isn't a program; it's just text, read and displayed as such. It can be a phone number or a URL or anything along those lines, and the scanning program can pass that along to the phone app or the web app or whatever seems appropriate, but I've never seen a scanning app that does that without asking first. It could theoretically be possible to exploit a bug in the scanning program to inject program code, but these are two problems with this: first, there are just too many different scanning apps out there for a single one to be worth targeting*; and second, between the exploit and the injected program, the resulting code would likely wind up so pixel-dense it would be basically impossible to scan.

Very easy, because you could just encode the evil phone number directly, and people are very likely to just click through. But there isn't really any technical difference between doing that and just putting the phone number itself on the ad.

*This may be the only benefit to smartphones depending on third-party apps to read QR codes.
posted by Kalthare at 4:38 PM on March 4, 2012


jeffburdges: "no ascii QR codes for moi."

That hack right there is exactly why human readable stuff is the way to go, IMHO. If facial recognition is as advanced as it seems to be (from the casual reading I've done about it), text should be pretty simple.
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 4:40 PM on March 4, 2012


I could see scanning things out of a catalog, although the old solution of having a reasonable-length identifier seems to work just as well.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 4:40 PM on March 4, 2012


jepler writes "QR codes are a neat technical achievement. They have not, however, found a particularly useful niche. It's mostly 'fumble with your mobile phone in order to continue viewing advertising'..."

Like say the automobile in 1896 QRCodes or whatever fulfills there function in the future will be ubiquitous. People are still in the throw it at the wall and see what sticks phase but smart phones are becoming deeply integrated in society and the user experience will get better. That function might be handled by OCR but I really doubt it without some kind of redundancy convention being adopted which will be just as unhuman readable as a QRCode. Also a QRCode strongly signals that there is a physical-digital bridge. Some one up thread lamented that the QRCode is tough to fit into a layout but that is really it's strength. A half baked "designer" isn't going to be tempted to weird font/glow/drop shadow/low contrast it into irrelevance.

George_Spiggott writes " Prior to QR apps I used to photograph business names and even URLs. I still photograph things as a memory aid, and QR codes require a lot less manual postprocessing afterward to get the information into a usable form."

I used to do this too even before the advent of digital cameras. I would crank through a couple rolls of 35mm a week anyways on assorted projects so using a frame or to as a perfect note pad and sketch book wasn't much of a hardship. And now with pocket digitals I take dozens of pictures a week as short and long term references. God Damn I love living in the future.

Llama-Lime writes "QR Codes are a marketer's GOTO. To the person who creates them, they are simple and seem clever. To people who encounter them, they don't make any sense and are a huge pain in the ass. QR codes considered harmful."

This is because the tech isn't mature yet. Cars didn't break out of the pain in the ass mode until after the Model T (and even it didn't have what we'd consider a standard automobile interface). They were expensive and required all sorts of special handling and care. Now some of us don't think anything of parking our cars out side at -30 and then jumping in them and driving 200 kilometres away for a visit. Something that was unthinkable at the turn of the last century if only because the roads weren't up to it.

AceRock writes "What's clear is that people want a way to link digital content/information to real objects in the physical world. We've come to realize that the solution will involve mobile phones, but we haven't figured out a way to do it easily, quickly, and conveniently. We can do it, but only at the most basic, functional level, with QR codes."

One place where QRCodes should make a big impact is in goods tracking both in the short term and long term. If we ever get to the point where every single item on a car has a QRCode that connects to a well populated DB containing information on that item it will be glorious. Need to know where your MAP sensor is the failure prone version made in Factory A instead of Factory B? "Beep" and done.

heathkit writes "I actually like QR codes. They're a nice solution to the problem of entering text into mobile devices. I once interviewed a candidate who had his entire vcard (not just a link, so you didn't need a network connection) on his resume. "

This is awesome and it would make him standout even if the hiring committee didn't actually use the QRCode.

Ayn Rand and God writes "At work every employee is issued a smart phone. Every flyer posted throughout the office has a qr code. You want to attend a tech talk? Scan the code in the flyer, click 'will attend'. The event is now in your calendar.

"Want to reserve a conference room? Scan the code on the door, check the schedule and make a reservation in under a minute."


Beautiful application.

device55 writes "But that example requires all employees to be issued smartphones, all employees to know how to use them, and all employees be trained and willing to accept this particular office culture. (why scanning the physical door of a physical conference room is more efficient than scheduling a meeting in Outlook without getting up from your desk, I don't know.)"

It's not like you can't do both. The scan the code at the door thing would be great for ad hock room use and also as a way of taking attendance.

InsertNiftyNameHere writes "I think QR codes are just the 'newest tech/marketing play thing' that will be abandoned just as the Cuecat was."

Comparing a technology (QRCodes) with a poor implemented piece of hardware seemingly designed to burn through VC at the height of the tech bubble is wrong. It's not like bar codes disappeared with the fall of CueCat. QRCodes are about leveraging technology many people are already carrying around rather than trying to convince people to invest in specialized hardware.

InsertNiftyNameHere writes "The clock is cool and all, but I'll be happy to wait until the robots are smart enough to read what I can read. That way I don't need 'robot code' plastered all over to distract and annoy me."

Ideally you'd feed different information to the robot than you would to the human like in the VCard examples. The human gets a name and number/url and the robot gets a complete contact entry. The human gets Kale and the robot gets the complete handling history of that particular package of Kale from when the seed went into the ground thru when it was sprayed with pesticides to when it was picked, packaged and delivered to the store.
posted by Mitheral at 4:43 PM on March 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


QR codes are a real time saver, if someone recommends you use one in your marketing campaign you never have to listen to that person again.
posted by Mick at 4:49 PM on March 4, 2012 [5 favorites]


So I trawled back through a bunch these, and lo and behold a truck from my art studio complex that had advertising for an exhibit last fall has managed to snag itself a spot in the hall of shame. I'm kind of surprised the contributor even *noticed* the QR Code, because there was a whole lot going on there already (more so in person, I might add).

As for the codes themselves in general - bleh. They're a terrible combination of visual pollution and mystery meat. Aesthetically speaking I don't think they could be much worse than the simultaneously jarring and stagnant square thud of ugly that sits like a turd in so many advertisements now. They're useful for lots of things like inventory and tracking, so it's not a slam against the technology, just against the visual blight that results from the stupidity of sticking these all sorts of places they don't belong.
posted by stagewhisper at 5:40 PM on March 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


QR code tattoo signals end of the QR code?

posted by Burhanistan at 5:54 PM on March 4, 2012


stagewhisper, I totally knew exactly the truck you were talking about before I clicked the link to confirm. weeeeeeeird.
posted by ocherdraco at 5:55 PM on March 4, 2012


To be fair, they were kinda hard to miss! They were running some sort of contest at the time where you were supposed to take a photo of one of the trucks if you spotted it out and about (and not, say, lined up in your studio parking lot) and then send the photo to the url of what I'm assuming the QR code led to. I guess that makes a bit more sense since the marketing team assumed people would already have their smartphones whipped out once they saw the trucks.
posted by stagewhisper at 6:04 PM on March 4, 2012


Does this mean we can begin the Killing of the Marketers & Advertisers?

This QR shit is aesthetically ugly. It dehumanizes our environments. And it adds no value to our lives.

Seriously, can the Killing begin?
posted by quadog at 6:09 PM on March 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Wow. I wonder if people got this angry when UPCs started showing up on food labels.
posted by Kalthare at 6:15 PM on March 4, 2012 [5 favorites]


You know what might work. If instead of printing QR codes on ads, you instead put something like "To find out more, ask Siri to search for [nonsense phrase]" where the top result would lead to the page you'd want the user to go.

I've seen a few ads that just say "Google Us" somewhere on them. One I used to pass every weekday even had the word google in multiple bright, difficult to read colours.

Also, it really bugged me that many at the link didn't have the minimum 4 "pixel" blank margin around them.
posted by fedorafennec at 6:21 PM on March 4, 2012


fedorafennec -- the QR nomenclature for the pixels is "module". And the different sizes are called "versions". There must be something lost in translation.

This_Will_Be_Good -- if you only use capital letters, numbers and a limited set of punctuation it is possible to use a denser alternate character encoding that lets you fit more into the QR code. That's why HTTP://METAFILTER.COM/ can fit into a Version 1 (21x21 modules), while http://metafilter.com/ requires a Version 2 (25x25 modules). Hostnames and URI schemes are not case sensitive, although again I'm not sure why UPPERCASE was selected for the condensed encoding.
posted by autopilot at 6:37 PM on March 4, 2012


i like the way they look personally

little gray mystic doorways into somewhere
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 6:59 PM on March 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


autopilot writes "Hostnames and URI schemes are not case sensitive, although again I'm not sure why UPPERCASE was selected for the condensed encoding."

Inertia probably. Capital letters when you only have one size goes back to mainframes whose fonts derived from teletypes. So most of the condensed character sets are capital letters.
posted by Mitheral at 7:05 PM on March 4, 2012


Wow. I wonder if people got this angry when UPCs started showing up on food labels.

Are UPC codes the Mark of the Beast? Opinions vary!
posted by cortex at 7:26 PM on March 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


Is there a way to encode a mailto: link with a subject into a QR code?
posted by Decimask at 8:33 PM on March 4, 2012


Yep.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:47 PM on March 4, 2012


Yeah, I really don't understand the vitriol. QR codes are typically very silly, but they are occasionally very useful. I'm apartment-hunting, for instance, and when I'm out running, a "for lease" sign with a QR code is a very, very helpful thing, because chances are I'll have forgotten about the sign by the time I get home. The "shop at the bus stop" implementation is worthwhile too. Basically, any place you'd like the user to take useful information away with them, in a situation where they're otherwise not likely - QR codes are worthwhile.

Don't blame "marketers and advertisers" (btw, since when has it been acceptable to call for a "Killing" of an entire class of people?). Blame dumb marketers and advertisers, who jump on every channel and tech fad, instead of putting the objectives of their campaign first.
posted by downing street memo at 8:54 PM on March 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


a QR code is a very, very helpful thing, because chances are I'll have forgotten about the sign by the time I get home

I think this is how a lot of people are using them. Its the equivalent of finding something interesting online and e-mailing it yourself, except that it takes EVEN LONGER.

Then Instapaper came along and I don't e-mail myself things anymore. I hit a bookmarklet in my browser or on my phone.

This is what the world is waiting for.
E-mailing yourself links::Instapaper as
QR Codes::???
posted by AceRock at 9:59 PM on March 4, 2012


The next step is RFID. Your phone will just pick up signals from anything in your vicinity and then if you ask "what's that?" it will have the answer ready (to be figured out:differentiating between multiple signals in a given vicinity so that you aren't stuck again with explicitly pointing your phone at something, but maybe just waving it within 2' is sufficient). And it will build a helpful report each day detailing your location and the codes you were exposed to at the time. Be careful what you wish for maaaaan.
posted by aydeejones at 10:29 PM on March 4, 2012


RFID is a long way from being cheap enough to put everywhere these things are.

except that it takes EVEN LONGER.

To be fair, it takes longer for my camera app to come up than the QR app.
posted by rhizome at 10:33 PM on March 4, 2012


RFID isn't an alternative because how do you differentiate between hundreds of different ads in even a small magazine? Also a QRCode on a truck or a billboard is going to be outside that range.

Plus as was iterated earlier QRCodes are free anytime you are printing something, RFID tags aren't.
posted by Mitheral at 10:34 PM on March 4, 2012


QR Codes remind me of PaperDisk, BTW. I remember someone breathlessly telling me about printing a whole 1.44MB floppy's worth of data onto a piece of paper in the mid 90's and thought it was the bee's knees, but scanners were prohibitively expensive to my teenaged self at the time, rendering any possible advantages, real or imagined, moot.

1X CD-R drives were just becoming accessible around the same time and I listened to my first MP3 (Snap - "I got the power") on a prized potpourri CD burned by a rich kid at my high school.
posted by aydeejones at 10:40 PM on March 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


Apparently in my dystopian imagined world magazines are but a quaint antiquity enjoyed solely for their ironic kitschy value. I think QR Codes are hilarious when used in the wrong contexts (like an email signature block containing a QR Code URL) but there are plenty of useful applications. Adding trustworthy human-readability would be an ideal incremental improvement, and smart phones will continue to speed up and if this is considered a core functionality moving forward we can expect the scanning process to improve significantly.

The RFID thing was mostly a joke but I could see the tags being used to mark landmarks, movie posters, etc. Not necessarily throwaway RFID chips in every little thing (unless/until it does become cheap enough) but a landscape peppered with tracking signals marking your path like pushpins on Google Maps, with a convenient app that tells you all the cool touristy things you encountered today, which is free so long as you share the data with the Googlez.
posted by aydeejones at 10:52 PM on March 4, 2012


bondcliff: "
"Send them to Zombo.com"

Is that a joke? All I get is a Spanish guy saying "Welcome to Zombo.com" over and over again. He sounds... sexy.
"

Oh, bondcliff. You have made me feel sad. And old. Actually, mostly just old.
posted by ChrisR at 10:57 PM on March 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


QR codes are augmented reality's version of the mouse over.
posted by roboton666 at 11:22 PM on March 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


Among the many problems with QR codes in advertising: How often do people look at an ad, and think "I would like to invest some of my time finding out more about that?" Pretty goddamn rarely, I'll tell ya! Ad-makers, you have a couple seconds, tops, to worm your way into my brain with your pathetic little plea for attention; if you're going to make me futz with my phone too, I will carry on doing what I was doing before you tried to distract me.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 1:00 AM on March 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Coming to this one late...

Some stats -

About 1 in 7 Android users in the US have a barcode reader - many of these will be a QR reader

Only 36% of British consumers know what QR codes are

However... They are being used increasingly in magazines, and the people using them are using them time and time again, so they must see some results.

Also, the benefit of using a QR code over a domain name or keyword in an ad is that the company knows exactly where the user will be sent - it's a safe redirect. If you ask for someone to search for a domain name then it's up to the search engine to send them to the right place.

Also, there's a view that they took off in Japan because there were TV ads telling people how they worked.
posted by DanCall at 1:54 AM on March 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's funny sometimes to see what Mefi thinks is stupid.

Personally I love QR codes, but then again I only use them, as someone up thread mentioned, as a quick way to give people my contact info. I have one on the back of my business card. So, I guess I love QR codes for that purpose. Never really paid attention to them for ads and such.
posted by snwod at 1:59 AM on March 5, 2012


There should be a windows and/or mac os x virus that edits photoshop and .pdf files, replacing QR codes by the one I linked upthread or similar. I'm imagine the media coverage would improve awareness of QR codes. ;)
posted by jeffburdges at 3:02 AM on March 5, 2012


Oh, bondcliff. You have made me feel sad. And old. Actually, mostly just old.

I've been sitting here for 24 hours scratching my head, thinking I might have been out the day the zombo.com meme happened. I was thinking he was telling me to go to zombo.com to get my stickers printed so I went there and patiently waited for the splash screen to end. I must have waited a good 45 seconds before thinking I'd go find a less annoying company to print up my stickers.

Then this morning I'm on the subway and it hits me. He wasn't sending me to zombo.com to get my stickers printed, he was telling me my stickers should send the video to zombo.com. It was so damn obvious and I feel like I'm the only one in the thread who didn't get the joke.

Now I feel old. And stupid. And foolish. Actually, mostly just old, stupid and foolish.

Anyone know where I can find a sexy-voiced Latin guy to cheer me up?
posted by bondcliff at 5:56 AM on March 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


I use the Mobile Barcoder add-on for Firefox as a quick way to copy URLs or any other text from my browser to my phone.

Sometimes I feel like I am the only person in the whole world who finds that useful. This is definitely one of those times.
posted by helicomatic at 6:15 AM on March 5, 2012


At work, all of our equipment is labeled with an asset tag containing the item's serial number, the name of the office that "owns" the equipment, our internal ID number, and a QR code supposedly containing all of this information.

Because my office actually maintains its own fairly large inventory, which is somewhat unique to our large organization, these QR codes are a huge productivity boon to us....or they would be, if the guys printing the labels didn't crop the bottom 20% of the code off of the label.

As far as I can tell, the QR codes on these labels have been unusable for all 10 or so years that we've been using the labels. *Facepalm*
posted by schmod at 7:35 AM on March 5, 2012


At The Next HOPE, someone put up QR codes which, when decoded, made an ASCII-art Goatse. Best QR code I've ever scanned!
posted by Xoder at 9:47 AM on March 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


I made a QR Code shirt (self link) as a promo item. I've given away a few, I wear it around sometimes, unfortunately I'm not terribly photogenic, so I don't get my picture taken very often, hence the QR often goes unphotographed. That or my shirts just suck, either or.

Fun story, I actually generated the code and made the shirt before I had a smart phone capable of scanning it. Fortunately I wore it to a party that someone had a scanner and tested it for me. I was most pleased when someone asked me about it, and confirmed for me that it actually goes to my website.

(I also made stickers from it and sometimes when I'm a jerk I put them over the QR codes on outdoor ads)
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 11:01 AM on March 5, 2012


Drink More Ovaltine
posted by MangyCarface at 11:58 AM on March 5, 2012


Whatever, us pros know that Datamatrix is the more compact and therefore better 2d code.
posted by cman at 12:11 PM on March 5, 2012


bondcliff: "Anyone know where I can find a sexy-voiced Latin guy to cheer me up?"

Corinthian Leather.

posted by Splunge at 1:38 PM on March 5, 2012


Hey, it suddenly occurs to me that you could make qr code cookies. (They might be rather large cookies.)
posted by Zed at 1:43 PM on March 5, 2012


Robot Barf
posted by device55 at 2:28 PM on March 4 [+] [!]


Source.

I don't actually mind that the robotbarf.com guy didn't mention it. I had been hoping, though, that he'd do something along the lines of wtfqrcodes.com. Shame he registered the domain and didn't use it for anything really funny.
posted by Mikey-San at 8:39 PM on March 5, 2012


Oh, there's a QR code! Let me spend the next 30 seconds retrieving my personal computing device, locating the appropriate app, launching it, and waiting for the camera to wake up from it's eternal slumber. Then, let me spend the next 60 seconds failing to find just the right combination of lighting, camera focus, and zoom to attempt a scan. Then take me to a useless mobile site with five sentences of marketroid on it.

Until I read this, I wasn't really sure what those things were. I've seen them, sure, but.

Once again, Metafilter comes to my increasingly-befuddled-by-ordinary-things rescue.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 10:18 PM on March 5, 2012


A few days late to the party, but in my mind very applicable:

Pictures of People Scanning QR codes
posted by channey at 10:46 PM on March 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


I think the technology is just in its trough of disillusionment phase where there were unsized expectations about the number of users per ad. The ubiquity, low cost and occasional utility will keeps them showing up. Low cost things don't need to delever a lot if value to be useful.
posted by humanfont at 10:46 AM on March 6, 2012


If Google Goggles take off (I have a feeling they won't, but that some version of that technology is probably the step after smart phones) then QR and Augmented Reality in general will probably become a lot more useful. Right now the act of taking out a phone, pointing its camera at a thing, and then relying on optical recognition to take you to some web address is a lot of fucking work - much more so than just typing in a shortened URL. Glasses that do it automatically, however...
posted by codacorolla at 11:27 AM on March 6, 2012


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