Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The growing use of QR codes

In my last blog post there was a poll about QR codes and most people responded that they'd like to know more. In case you missed the QR code boat entirely - I'll briefly explain what they're all about. Similar to a traditional barcode but better, QR codes can link to multi-media online content. All you have to do is scan the code ( i.e. take a photo on your camera phone using free software) and up pops a video, sound, blog, website or pdf optimised for mobile browsers. For example, QR codes have been widely used for marketing purposes to capture consumers reading magazines or walking the streets by directing them to online stores and promotional sites through their mobile phones. However, more creatively, they've been used by museums, street artists, fashion labels, musicians and activists.

Imagine the old business card (which has almost become a thing of the past) with a QR code that links back to your blog or LinkedIn profile! So much more information than you can fit on a tiny little card.

Street artists such as Bansky have used the codes alongside their impermanent work as a link back to more information, wikipedia entries, online galleries and video art. Public art enthusiasts need only scan the code with their phone to get a whole lot more information about the artist and where else to see their work. For example, geo-tagging is being used in this area so street art can be found in google maps.

QR codes are also being used in museums to direct visitors to more information, interactive content and images. For example, the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney, trialled them in a recent exhibition of Japanese fashion with mixed success and recommend education as a way to combat low usage stats. The Mattress Factory in San Francisco have incorporated QR codes and have also pro actively educate visitors and guide them through downloading a free a QR code reader.

Musicians are using QR codes on gig posters and CD art to link back to their website, myspace, music videos, free song downloads or directly to the itunes store. Fashion has grabbed hold of QR codes are are using them as a branding and functional design element. For example, a stylish limited edition QR code scarf or a reconfigurable velcro QR code T-shirt? The space invader scarf holds messages 'from outer space' and the velcro T-shirt... presumably you could generate a QR code and then replicate it on the T-shirt to create a walking QR code platform.

Other uses include scavenger hunts where you have to scan the codes to get the clues to follow the trail that leads to the treasure! Or in activism, where a simple black and white code stuck on a building belies the power of the message and social network behind it.

Those are some of the uses of QR codes that I've uncovered. I would be interested to hear about any other interesting uses, particularly in libraries. So, in my last post I remarked that I thought I had some pretty cool ideas about how we can use QR codes in libraries. For a start I think we could print them on our flyers, pamphlets, bookmarks, posters etc, so people could scan them and link to online content such as video of search tips, database demos, library orientation, news and updates and more. I think the QR code is another example of the convergence of physical and digital worlds, and it will be exciting to see how the use of them develops.

1 comment:

  1. Another great post Sophie. You've convinced me to give them a try.