In the late 1990s, DigitalConvergence.:Com (now-defunct) developed a barcode reader named :CueCat, which is a cat-shaped handheld barcode reader. The :CueCat enabled people to link to an Internet website by scanning a 1D barcode. It’s a cool idea. But, the commercial was failed, because they used proprietary data format which being scrambled. The other problem is privacy issue. Each :CueCat device has a unique serial number to profiling and tracking of users. As Joel Spolsky said, the whole business model is actually a Chicken and Egg Syndrome. You just can not make people use a system they don’t trust, and the manufacturer will not pay to license the ability to create the proprietary barcodes for a system nobody uses. :CutCat was selected as top 10 worst products at 2005 by CNET. For more information about :CutCat, please visit How to Neuter a :Cat.

The CueCat barcode scanner.
by Chris Tomkins-Tinch, license under the GFDL.

It’s not a good idea to create a proprietary system for mass market, even the devices are free giveaway. Only public standard can survive on the market. QRCode is one of examples which is widely used in Japan, and soon in Taiwan and China. QRCode is kind of 2D barcode which can store more information then 1D barcode. For example, you can store addresses and URLs in QRCode. In Japan, it’s increasingly common in magazines and advertisements. Another common use is putting QR Code on business cards, it’s greatly simplifying the task of entering the personal details into the phone book of one’s mobile phone. There are some companies provide business cards design services with QR Code. (Ex: QRコード名刺!スピード印刷!ぷりんと王国) For more information about QRcode, please read my another entry mobile barcode (It’s in Chinese, Sorry. But you can read the images and video. 🙂 ).

There are also several ideas to link virtual world with physical world on computer. At 2004, a Japanese company IO-Data bundled a software named “BarCatch Cam” from Hitach with the 0.3M pixels resource USB1.1 CCD WebCam product USB-CCD30S at 2004/10. The software enable the webcam with a QRCode reader capability, but it can only support QR Code which only contain less then 80 characters, because it’s kind of trial version.

Another Japanese company E.S.P released another freeware, HOOP. The softeware allows you to read QRCode from magazines or newspapers to link to the specificed website by a usb webcam, and combines RSS feeds for advertising. You can get sales promotion from the software.

However, these software is not easy to use. Especially they are only supporting QRCode and URL link. One of the QRCode reader provide QuickMark released a new software named “QuickMark WebCam” which is a freeware for reading 2D barcodes by a WDM compatible webcam. I played with the QuickMark WebCam with some QRCode materials, and made a screenshot.

The first thing I scaned is a handbook from Tokyo Metro. It has a QRCode at the back, which allow your mobile phone connect to website to learn about maps information. And I scanned the QRCode made by Aditya Bansod in bizcard format of Windows Live Barcode. You can see the software imported the data into Outlook right the way. I tried to read Imran Ali‘s bizcard qrcode, his one is larger and make it more easy to read.

And I tried an advertisement in local magazine which be distributed in MRT station. The advertisement is published by MagicCurry, the qrcode contains the name and the phone number of the curry restaurant. This one is pretty small and containing more informations than URL.

The interesting part is the QuickMark WebCam supports DataMatrix, too! Semapedia is a project which uses DataMatrix to connect Wikipedia and physical space. I read two of the photos on flickr uploaded by users from Semapedia.

Video is took by Rex Tsai. The music is produced by Eric de Maar. License under Creative Commons Deed. You can download original resolution version from here.

Now, there are many things you can do with 2D barcodes. You can create contents on Wikipedia and share with the other people by Semapedia, or generate a business card format QRcode for exchange with your friends on Windows Live Barcode or QuickMark online QRCode generator. The business house can provide promotion by QRCode. Give it a try!

Not only URLs and business cards. 2D barcodes is a way to make input more easy. For example, we can connect online map engine like Google map by putting longitude and latitude in the 2D barcode. We can scan the barcode from a travel guides to get the location on the map, and it’s more useful if it can be used on mobile devices which has a GPS for navigating like ETEN Glofish X500 or HTC P3300.

For people who don’t know QuickMark, QuickMark is a software 2D barcode reader for mobile devices. It’s now supporting Symbian, Widows Mobile and feature phone devices. (Like OKWAP A375, ASUS V80, ASUS J210). You can read some introduction in these languages –

Enjoy and share it!: Digg!

  • Rex –

    I’m David from over at Camera Tagging Word, thanks for stopping by and leaving corrections to my post on this subject. Your post here offers a lot of great background and links to some great stuff.

    The Windows Live Barcode site has been down for a few days. Any ideas what’s up?

  • Hi David,

    No, I have no idea about why the Windows Live Barcode is shutdowned. 🙁

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  • Stephen

    Rex, I am in the US and the problem is that few people want to use their phones in this way. In the retail market, I think what is required is a device provided by the retailer – to enable the scanning. It will have just one button that says “scan”, and a screen that can display the URL. Of course it will need some basic mouse features to navigate and GSM capabilities.
    An ideas if such a device could be found?

  • Stephen, do you need a mobile device or kiosk ?

    Both requirements can be easily fulfilled with a Windows mobile device or Windows embedded OS or Linux. All you need to buy some hardware, and you can find a lot of vendors in Taiwan.

  • Ada Green

    Thanks for sharing, but this article is too old, now I think Zxing bar code scanner is better. Hope this article will be closed.