QR . . . U Ready?

December 16, 2009

QR CodeDespite pronounced Luddite tendencies, Poor Richard is intrigued with this bit of innovation. The bit of abstract squiqqle at the left is a QR Code.  QR stands for Quick Response.  Originally used in Japan for parts tracking in automotive manufacturing, the QR code has gone viral there and may be the next “killer app” for your iPhone or Blackberry.

Poor Richard’s Luddite alter-ego questions of what possible use could this oogly scrambled mess be.  Like the British handloom operators of the early 1800s, my first tendency is to trash any new technology that potentially threatens my established and well-ordered universe.  On second thought, though, trashing the power looms in Great Britain earned many of the Luddites  new careers as shepherds down under in Australia, and Poor Richard is not fond of sheep.

The long answer to the question is that the QR can contain text (lots of it) and URLs, which is pretty cool.  Even cooler, the telephonic gadget you carry in your pocket can read the QR code and (if you’re wirelessly attached to the internet) it can connect you directly with the website referenced in the code. It can also be used send SMS messages, geographic locations, and transfer contact info into a database.  All that from a box that looks like a Photoshop aberration . . .

Best yet, this innovation has the potential to actually enhance the value of print (as opposed to replacing it). Think about it . . . how about a poster that automatically directs the reader to the ticket office through their cell phone?  Coupons could carry QR codes to be read at the retail counter for special incentives or a chance to win 10 bazillion dollars.  Personalized URLs could be transformed into personalized QRs, directing a customer to a website with specific information tailored to meet their interests. There are some real possibilities here . . .

You can have fun playing with this one. Poor Richard has found a free app called Quickmark that reads QR codes on the iPhone and will actually let you create codes on the fly to transfer data. There are several websites that will let you create codes one at a time (try the Xzing Project QR Generator).  I’ve also found some software that will allow QR codes to be merged with a database. You can even order a t-shirt with your own personalized QR code message printed on the front.  Poor Richard didn’t spring for one; but if he had, here’s what his t-shirt would have looked like:

Luddite QR Code

Luddites of the world, unite!

Thanks to Andy Selcho of Salt Lake City, UT Gralpharaphics (name altered to protect the delicate sensitivity of the franchise), who introduced Poor Richard and bunch of other folks to QR codes.  Andy has put together a good YouTube video about QR codes . . . Here ’tis: