life in the so called space age

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

QR codes

I was at a movie theater in Indianapolis over the weekend to see Coraline, and the movie poster for Miss March caught my eye because the two guys on it were from The Whitest Kids U Know. Then I noticed that there was a QR code (kind of like a barcode, you may have seen similar datagrams on UPS tracking stickers) on the magazine they were looking at. I have an app for my iPhone called Barcode that added QR decoding recently, so I clicked a picture and decoded. Unfortunately, it was just a URL pointing to the site with the movie trailer. Belinda was quick to make the observation that it was a lot like the Ovaltine decoder ring in A Christmas Story - bit of a letdown. Very true. I hadn't encountered QR codes in this context, so I expected something "cool".

A bit of googling shows that QR codes have been used on movie posters in Japan (where the QR code was created) regularly for some time now. Initially I didn't really understand the reason for doing this. I understand that movie promo URLs are pretty obfuscated, but I think I could remember one if I really wanted to look at it. Also, the capture and decode process is cumbersome. At least on iPhone with the Barcode app. But at the end of the day, I think this is probably the easiest, completely opt-in method of getting a piece of text into a passerby's mobile device.

My big speculation is that eventually mobile devices will have as a component a standardized ad hoc network element that could be user set to accept or receive marketing messages in situations just like this. To step out a bit further, the sending device could even poll the user device for demographic info before sending a custom tailored message. It's certainly very questionable as to if people would ever want marketing this pervasive, but it's already progressed that direction quite a bit.

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