Back in September, on a trip to Walsall for a Social Media Curry, I picked up a pack of 3D SpongeBob Top Trumps. Unlike the traditional Top Trumps, the latest versions have an interactive element with 2D barcodes printed on the back of some of the cards which can be read by a web cam with special software.
Earlier this week, Top Trumps finally released the necessary SpongeBob software. Why the cards were on sale almost three months before the software I don’t know, but at last I can have my photo take with Spongebob. The actual SpongeBob software is a bit rubbish, and really wasn’t worth a three month wait, but it does show some of the potential of 2D codes for bridging the gap between the real and virtual worlds.
Whilst contemplating the current lack of a mass appeal QR code application in my previous post, it occurred to me that they would be brilliant on lottery tickets. It would be extremely simple for a QR code to be generated for each ticket which includes a hyperlink to a dynamically generated web page saying whether or not it is a winning ticket: Not only would this be much faster for the players than checking half a dozen lucky dips manually, but it would also drive tens of thousands of customers to the national lottery web site; where players could then be enticed to play other national lottery mobile games!
I’m not sure how extra revenue such a scheme would make for national lottery good causes, but I think I could at least expect a gallery in the British Museum named after me
nb. The idea has already generated an extra £2 as I went out and bought the above ticket specifically for this blog post.
The choice of January 1st as New Year’s day always annoys me, but as virtually no one else in the Western World questions the choice I reluctantly go along with the general concensus (albeit in the most miserable manner possible). It is, therefore, an appropriate time to think about the year ahead and like so many other bloggers make a few predictions/uneducated-guesses/pointless-meanderings about the world of technology. [Basically a long rambling random selection of my current thoughts on technology summed up in a simple list].
The Good News 1. The N97 takes Nokia back to the top of the pile At the end of this month my N95 contract will finally be over. The problem I have is that there isn’t really a better phone on the market: - The improvements on the N96 are negligible, and are not worth another 12/18-month contract. - The G1 is missing a decent camera, GPS, and most importantly a large enough user base to create all those extra applications I want. - The iPhone…well I just don’t understand why anyone would get such an over-hyped, locked-down, touchscreen-only phone. Whilst the N97 is likely to be the best smartphone on the market in 2009 (whenever it emerges) that is no guarantee of success, but hopefully a move to more austere times in 2009 will be a set-back to Apple, the epitome of style over substance.
2. Distributed social networks will shrink Facebook traffic I am hoping for a distributed future for social networks; one where I am in control of my account, my data, my applications. Be it a desire for photos of breastfeeding mothers, playing games that infringe intellectual copyright, or pretending to be the president of Guyana. Whilst I don’t disagree with any of the decisions Facebook has made on these particular issues, there may on occasion be times that I do disagree with Facebook. If you are on Facebook you have to abide by Facebook’s arbitrary rules and the rules of your own country; if you are on a distributed social network you only have to abide by the rules of your own country.
3. Project Kangaroo will hit UK desktops It was back in 2007 that I first heard about the proposed single on-demand player for BBC, ITV, and Channel 4, and whilst it all seems to have been bad news in 2008 with the Competition Commission complaining about a lack of rivalry, I think 2009 will be the year it moves/jumps forwards. The idea that a rivalry between the BBC, ITV, and Channel 4, is driving innovation in video-on-demand in the UK is best described as ‘bollocks’. Obviously the organisations will make comparisons with one another, but they are equally concerned about comparing themselves with international competitors (e.g., YouTube). 2009 will either be the year that the Competition Commission realises this, the Competition Commission fails to realise but bows to public demand for a single player, or the BBC freely share the technology in such a way as to circumvent the Competition Commission’s ruling.
The Bad News 4. The general public continue to ignore QR codes It was also back in 2007 that I first discovered QR codes, and the Sun told the masses all about them. During 2008 the masses have continued to ignore them, and I think 2009 will be much the same. Whilst the Pepsi Max campaign will, no-doubt, increase QR code awareness amongst certain sections of the population, there is not yet a killer application for the mass of the population. The question is whether QR codes will be able to carve out a niche before RFID tags become more widespread, if not it may be a technology that just passes the UK by; the moment of truth probably won’t come until 2010.
5. No Google alternative will emerge I have been disliking Google for many years now, and I don’t expect 2009 to see a change in my attitude: no single company should have so much control on what people see on the internet. Yahoo will continue to shrink, Live will slow their loss of market share by throwing money at it, but eventually Google will know everything and control everything you know. Alongside this pessimistic view, it is worth noting that if a markedly better search engine does emerge, and spreads virally as an embedded application in a social networking site (the only way to compete against the Google-do-all-portal), then the Google fortunes could fall over night.
nb. I do realise that January 1st would have been a more appropriate day for such meanderings, but yesterday was spent lounging around watching ‘family’ movies….why I never went to the cinema to watch “The Shaggy Dog” will forever remain a mystery.
Last night Tim Kindberg gave a very interesting talk on the subject of ‘digital-physical mashups‘, connecting the real world with the online world through QR codes and radio frequency identification (RFID). However, whilst chatting over drinks and nibbles with some people afterwards, some rather disturbing news emerged: my days as the number one QR code model (according to Google images) are numbered.
Whilst my blue QR t-shirt has successfully fought off competition from the Sun’s Keeley , the general consensus was that it would eventually lose out in a battle with Kelly Brook and the Pepsi campaign.
Losing such a battle would be particularly unfair considering Kelly’s rather simplistic description of QR codes: “you take a picture on your phone and it takes you straight to a web site” …not that I’m bitter at all.
According to my webometrics Reddit I have been waiting 28 days to get a Pepsi Max with a QR code on it. Today I finally got one: Just half an hour before, I received a poster from Wolverhampton’s School of Art and Design with a QR code on it, both as an illustration of the subject of the talk and as a means of providing further information: … a close up of the code: Whereas the Pepsi QR code merely gives a link to the Pepsi site, the Wolverhampton code provides details of the lecture, a link for further information on the speaker, and even includes information about how to scan the QR code (taking advantage of the level of error correction in QR codes). Could it be that Wolverhampton’s School of Art & Design have more successfully utilised QR Codes than the multi-billion dollar PepsiCo?
Whilst I think QR codes have been around far too many years to describe any part of the UK’s slow embrace as ‘pioneering’, it is nice that it is starting to make a few stories. I love the potential of QR codes to connect the real world to the online world, and any news is good news.
I have received a press release from emma cott to highlight that they are making it simple for people to have their social network site profiles embedded on t-shirts etc. in the form of QR codes: It’s worth noting as: 1) The majority of my site’s taffic is driven by the QR code posts. 2) It’s the first time that I have been singled out for a press release, thus joining the ranks of a million other bloggers.
QR codes have been appearing on clothes for a while, there is even a Facebook app, although emma cott seems to be trying to gain competitive edge by providing a range of networks and a variety of ‘motives’. Personally I would like to be able to add my own motive and any URL.
I think there will be more and more QR clothes in the future, and my own QR t-shirt will look increasingly amateur: Which is a shame as I got it made in October, and have barely had a chance to show it off over the winter months.
ReadWriteWeb have written a piece on ‘Google barcodes’ which, unless I am much mistaken, the rest of the world knows as QR codes. Google is to use them in print advertising.
Whilst the ReadWriteWeb blogger is not holding his breath for its success, he seems to have missed one important point: The software is already on the phones of a large audience! What Google need to do is educated the mobile users (including the so-called technologically minded at ReadWriteWeb).
All about mobile life have just drawn attention to what sounds like a fun new QR-code pastime: QR-Kill. Basically you wear a printed QR code on your back with you name and phone number, and when someone locks onto it and sends you an SMS you’re dead.
Unfortunately the only people I know with any idea of what a QR code is, are my extremely un-urban-soldier research group and a Finnish webometrician who would be quickly tracked to the closest pub drinking a pint of strongbow.
Whilst I love the BBC and can see a lot of potential in QR codes, I am waiting for them to roll out to more useful areas of the site before I get over excited. I can see how QR codes embedded on news and sports pages, linking to mobile optimised versions would be useful. However, I can’t imagine that it is very often that people think “I really want to be able to access these programme details on the move…if only I could easily transfer the URL easily across”. Whilst I suppose an avid fan may wish to embed a QR code on a T-shirt, to show affiliation with a programme, the BBC codes don’t even help with that as they are not in a useful format. Although hopefully this is a sign of good things to come.