QR codes – The teksters version of a secret decoder ring!

Anyone that has spent any time around me in recent months won’t be surprised to see me blogging about QR codes. In fact, a colleague recently sent me this link, Arrrgmented Reality, because I have them up on my office window, in our breakroom (yes, it’s a foursquare check-in location), and on cards and letters strewn about on my desk. I think this technology has so many useful applications, and I do feel a bit like I’m part of Little Orphan Annie’s Secret Society when I scan one to see what’s behind it.

One of the cool things about what I do is thinking of ways to make technology like QR codes applicable for everyday use in meaningful ways for the public sector. There are many potential applications for these concepts, loosely grouped into a category referred to as “Augmented Reality”, meaning reality extended by information via technology.

Let’s take a little tour of some cool uses out in the wild:
First Stop – > BestBuy Retail Store

Best Buy uses QR codes to extend their in-store customer experience linking a physical product information and pricing tag to the online version complete with customer reviews (this is handy as heck), additional specifications, in-store availability, and ability to add the product into a wish-list or shopping cart for later purchase. In addition to this capability, I’m assuming Best Buy is monitoring in near real-time interest in certain items by QR code activity which is a statistic inherent in many implementations of QR codes. This is a phenomenal usage of “Augmented Reality” that anybody can interact with today.

Second Stop -> Magazines and Print Publications

You don’t have to look to far to see a print publication making good use of QR code technology to give life to a relatively static ad placement. With QR codes the above article could link to a video presentation, auto-review site, owners/loyalty group, or directly to a local sales office based on physical location (there’s an app for that). There are now several examples where books have QR codes in them linking readers to online book clubs, fan communities, and other digital locations designed to keep the brand alive.

Third Stop -> The Airport

I regularly fly on Delta airlines. Delta is now, and has been using QR codes to power their electronic boarding passes for security and plane boarding for some time now. I use this regularly, wherever available.

Fourth Stop -> … I think you get my point

I personally feel that the trend of augmented reality is just in it’s infancy. The concept of taking a physical object and enhancing it with the rich digital media that exists, or will exist, is just too tempting of a opportunity to not be developed. Does this mean that QR codes are the end-all be-all for this purpose? No, I don’t think so, at least not quite yet. QR Codes suffer the proverbial crossing of the chasm as a good chunk of smartphones (everything Apple) require knowledge of the tool, an application to be downloaded and installed. Overtime I’m positive this will become more seamless though.

Where could we take this?

Imagine a day when a stop at a national park, or a national monument included the ability to scan in and interact via augmented reality including video, audio, FAQ’s, re-enactments, etc.

Imagine a day when a stop at your local government facility can be largely automated via the use of your smartphone and QR code driven interactions (renewing drivers licenses, applying for a passport, renewing license plate tabs, buying a fishing license, etc).

Imagine a day when you can browse an art gallery and instantly be connected to the community of people interested in and discussing pieces of art or history.

Imagine a day when business cards contain not only a link to contact information but also to an introductory video of the person (these are cool, I have a few examples).

Imagine a day when high-tech interactive video games have you traveling and interacting with the world and the people around you.

The above are just some of the new and future uses of this technology. Where have you seen this technology in the wild?

I think I’m going to get a QR code on a shirt :).

Brent Kastner

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