Digital Semaphore: the 2D Tag


30 Responses to “Digital Semaphore: the 2D Tag”

  1. Darran Edmundson says:

    We’ve just completed a year-long museum project where students navigate between interactive kiosks while the system tracks their progress. This museum is unusual in that all student visitors must wear white cotton gloves, partly to reinforce the heritage experience, and partly to protect the building from a hundred-thousand inquisitive hands. The white gloves begged to be used as a background for unique 2D barcodes. Unfortunately we couldn’t get a high-enough read success rate owing to folds in the material – ended up falling back on RFID. But I still like barcodes …

    Aesthetically, the circular shot-code ( is attractive … though I professionally try to avoid closed systems.

  2. Church says:

    At the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear, encouraged its users to meet up by offering points for a badge. To facilitate this, they offered QR codes for each user. Details here:

  3. teapot says:

    Agreed. QR Codes are awesome. One interesting use of them in Tokyo was to put them in clubs so after you had paid the full cover charge the first time you could then use your phone to scan the code inside and get on the VIP list for next time (Difficult when the whole site is in Japanese).

    I added one to some stickers I made and went around tokyo slapping up earlier this year. It’s a great way of keeping the visuals cleaner.

    As far as I can tell the following sites can all generate QR-codes for free:

    QR stuff lets you choose the colour, too.

  4. grimc says:

    It’s not just handy for moving between media–it’s handy for just plain moving.

    I’m using QR codes right now in my apartment move. I made an Excel spreadsheet inventory for all the boxes, with columns for box #, room and contents. The label printer I have has layout software which turns the ‘contents’ data into a QR code. Now, instead of wondering what is in which box, I can use QuickMark to read the code.

    Should make unpacking easier. In theory, anyway. I’m still waiting for the movers to bring my stuff. :(

  5. terenceeden says:

    I’ve just come back from a trip to Paris, France – 2D tags are *everywhere*

    Adverts, tourist maps, graffiti – looks like they’re becoming mainstream.

    Oh, if you want to create QR codes on your phone, I’ve got a mobile website which lets you do that –

  6. shinyblackroses says:

    For simple creation, try

    I’ve been using that for years.

  7. Anonymous says:

    what I want is a plugin that will allow me to highlight an address in my browser, click something, & get a popup with a QR code I can then scan with my phone for GPS navigation. o

  8. Anonymous says:

    FYI, Google’s URL shortener gives you a QR code ‘for free’ for each shortened URL.

  9. laureninspace says:

    This is so cool — I just wrote about QR codes on my personal blog. I was at the Online News Association 2010 and they played a big part of Webbmedia’s networking campaign. As an otaku, I immediately thought it’d be a great addition to my anime convention –

  10. Rob Agar says:

    Best one I’ve seen is a t-shirt with “quit staring at my QR code” :)

  11. Squid Tamer says:

    It’s annoyingly difficult to read a QR code without a fancy smartphone. It seems strange to me that there are tons and tons of QR reader apps for devices with 667Mhz CPU’s, but it’s just about impossible for my Dual core 2.7 Ghz et cetera et cetera machine to do the same thing.

  12. bardfinn says:

    A year or so ago I had created a Yahoo Pipes flow that generated random UUID’s and plugged them into Google’s chart API for QRCodes; It worked well until Google specifically shut off my Pipe’s access to the chart API with a message that programatically linking to the API via a third party was specifically forbidden by the terms of service. (When you make your own API calls / fetch a QRCode from Google, make sure it’s you doing it.)

    I’d been finding a way to generate database tracking labels for real-world objects, for inventory management purposes (from large corporate applications to home moves, this would be awesome).

  13. Anonymous says:

    I’ve been playing with qrcodes and most recently the google charts api for making them for some time now.

    check out sleejay dot com (use chrome, its my html5 testbed and its amaaaazing lol)

  14. kvh says:

    Ha ha. Unicorn Chaser.

  15. Pantograph says:

    *grumble grumble* visual pollution *grumble grumble*

    No really, they are the digital equivalent of spit on the ground. Ugly and unnecessary.

  16. greggman says:

    QR Codes SUCK. Sorry, I lived in Japan for many years and I never saw a single person scan a QR code ever even though they were everywhere.

    It takes more time to get out your phone, find the QR scanning app or the camera and put it in scanning mode, point it at the code, adjust your phone until the code fills the frame at the appropriate size, press “take” and then wait for it to figure out the code then it does to type in some code or even a normal url like

    • teapot says:

      QR Codes SUCK. Sorry, I lived in Japan for many years and I never saw a single person scan a QR code ever even though they were everywhere.

      It seems you had boring friends and a crap phone. All of my Jap phones handled them without issue and the QR code reader was something like 2 button presses from the home screen:

      To claim you can type a long URL on a mobile device quicker than you can scan the QR codes is nothing but pure imagination.

  17. Wordguy says:

    I just started using QR codes in white papers for one of my clients. Readers can scan the tags to get additional information or related papers. It’s a time saver if the white paper is printed. In the PDF the tags are a bit redundant.

    Also, I recently saw a QR code tag on a billboard in the Denver airport. Scanning it lets you download The Call of the Wild or The Autobiography of Ben Franklin.

  18. Anonymous says:

    That is an AWESOME ‘app’ (for lack of a better word, even though ‘hack’ would be more correct)!

    For the past couple of years I’ve been thinking about seamless computing, what with a desktop, a laptop/netbook and a smartphone (used to be a Palm IIIc and a phone, no laptop).
    I always thought of a dedicated “focus” button on each machine, which you would push to ‘steal’ focus of your computing actions to your current device.
    Hardware with the matching software would then transfer a short burst of data (maybe with accompanying larger datasets to sync the data, or even just a cloud-storage adress) to the device with focus and you would then be using your phone to (edit the same document/3d dataset)/(read the document or webpage from where you were)/(show the pictures you wanted to show).

    This QR hack allows me to do that, at least with webpages :) Thank you!

    /me off to the bathroom with the other BB stories I wanted to read on my smartphone, whilst thinking “never underestimate analog optical data transmission” :)

  19. mikpl says:

    URL shortener + QRCode generator (also does business cards in vCard and Geotags) –>

  20. enkiv2 says:

    The libqrencode package ( appears to be a nice usable open-source thing for generating the qrcodes — even comes with a unix-friendly command line app for spewing pngs. Precisely what I needed. Now I just need to figure out what the maximum number of characters I can encode in a single glyph is, and I can re-encode a book into a series of glyphs ;-).

  21. muteboy says:

    I’ve been using these for a while – I think they’re fascinating. I had a reader on my old Palm Centro, and now i have an Android phone I use them more than ever for grabbing links to apps.

    I notice that both Microsoft and other companies have created other designs based on circles and triangles. Is the QR standard open?

    I wrote about a recent use here:

    “I’ve been wondering if there was a way to generate a QR Code where you fixed a few pixels to create an image, then let the generator use the rest to create the code. You’d have to use a larger grid resolution than would otherwise be necessary, because you’re using the extra pixels for your image.
    How cool would it be to have a working QR code that contained your face, logo, or monogram?”

  22. Pliny the Elder says:

    I use the Firefox addon Mobile Barcoder a lot:

    It gives you a little box to mouse over that creates a QR code of the current page, and also adds the option to create a QR code when you right click anything. Really helpful for getting around the web filter at work that blocks download sites and executable files.

  23. jfrancis says:

    I used to think it was pretty trippy that there is an enormously large but finite number of images that can be displayed by a digital screen of a given resolution.

  24. PaamayimNekudotayim says:

    Has anyone seen any non-biased analytics on how much people use these?

    I see the codes being used, but I rarely see anyone actually scanning them.

  25. NFG says:

    QR codes are fantastic fun. I was boing’d for a similar fascination six years ago:

    The generator’s a bit unloved, I use QuickMark’s generator now:

    I put QRCodes on my business cards. Scan with a reader and your phone is immediately populated with all my contact details: web, email, phone, etc. Convenient for the three people who use ‘em, and it makes me look cool. Potentially.

    Additionally, Telstra in Australia started hyping them, but it basically went nowhere:

    And if you’re interested in an alternative for idiots, Microsoft made one:

  26. bkubicek says:

    In our hackerspace in Vienna, we found a probably useful application. We create Labelz, that we put on every thingy that just is in the lab, so people know what the heck this is, who is responsible, if you can borrow it, and weather you can dump it. This actually became a problem, as there were too many people to allow shared human memory to keep track of stuff. (current creation site, might change)

    Although the original idea was that the info is redundant, QR-Code and Human Readable, 95% usage is of the latter kind. Still, you can cut the label, use either the qr or text, and label your stuff in an less pedantic way.

    However, you cannot shrink the labelz currently.

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