QR codes have been around for years and are big in Japan, apparently, though slow to catch on in the west and especially in the USA. But they're here to stay, and getting more attention now that most smartphones either have built-in readers or apps that do the reading and translation.
You'll recognize a QR code when you see one, as it's a square with a digital black and white design of smaller squares inside it. Rather like a very complex bar code, which is exactly what it is. But instead of containing something as simple as a product number, a QR code is more likely to contain a link to a website, or several lines of text, or instructions to your cell phone to dial a particular number. Simply by pointing your cell phone camera at the code and running the reader, the code will be translated into its true meaning and executed. This may insert a new contact into your address book, or cause your phone's web browser to go to a website, or give you a text message.
These codes may be used anywhere, not just online. In fact, their true element is out in the physical world, where they can be incorporated into ads on vehicles and in paper media, or on T-shirts and bags and anywhere there's a relatively small flat surface. Conversely they may also be huge and occupy entire ad hoardings, just as long as they're somewhere you can point a smartphone at.
The possibilities of these codes, also called "hard links", have yet to be fully exploited here. By placing a code that contained instructions for payment, it would be possible for you to make a purchase without the need to enter your credit card details into a web page; all you'd need to do is point your phone at the QR code and the transaction would be made.
The problem at this time, is that although the resolution of a code is sufficient to contain more than 4000 characters, the average smartphone camera can only resolve about 40-60 characters. Enough for a short URL, or a phone number, and maybe a short address. But the more advanced uses of the codes will have to wait until we can develop better technology and that may not happen unless the codes can be found to have a very profitable purpose.
Meanwhile, if you go visit this site, you can play with creating your very own QR code, and finding something useful to do with it. You have up to 250 characters to play with, but do bear in mind the limitations of the readers, as mentioned above.
If you have a website, and come up with a way to make QR codes useful to you, or have a smartphone and can experiment with resolution, please post a comment here and let us know!
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