Little monochrome squares are everywhere now. They are pretty ugly and clunky and it has to be asked how many people are willing to get their smartphone out whilst waiting for the tube or the bus and scan in the nearest advert or poster, I can't say I ever have and in all honesty, you'd probably look a bit of a goon. But that said, these little gizmos have unleashed an unlimited amount of potential for taking our online lives and making it part of real life.
The QR code stands for 'quick response code' and was first invented by Toyota back in 1994 to track vehicles in the manufacturing process, allowing information to be decoded at a fast speed. These days it takes about a minute for your phone to translate the black and white square into a website, quite a commitment for a consumer to make whilst being bombarded with hundreds of advertising images on a daily basis.
The best thing about the QR code is that it can be printed, copied, or placed on any material or object as an offline hyperlink, surely the full potential for this has not yet been harnessed, think edible QR codes, QR codes being flown off the back of a plane, blimp QRs, mountainside QRs, T-shirt QRs, helipad QRs, crop circle QRs, the sky is literally the limit.
There have already been a few interesting QR stunts such as Starbucks putting them on their mugs which are tied in with their funding with the RED HIV charity which Starbucks funds, each time you scan the code you get a story about an HIV victim receiving the life-saving drugs from RED.
The Freedom Bargain, a guerilla activism campaign focused on interrogative protest art that connects symbols of freedom with the cost of American liberty, attaches QR codes to landmarks in Boston. When people scan the codes, they are presented with stories about "the cost of war in lives, future debt, and loss of personal freedoms.
The UK is now the seventh largest user of QR codes, the first being Japan. The codes work only with smartphones which have a QR scanner app such as QR scanner, ShopSavvy, Kaywa Reader or Scanlite.
It would seem the largest problem with QR codes is that people do not know what they are or how to use them, but with 51% of Americans predicted to have a smartphone by the end of the year, they might become as common as google searches within the next few years. All that companies need to muster now is a little creativity and some enticing rewards for scanning their adverts.
Writer, blogger and vintage trader.