QReative Places for QR Codes: Where to Display them So People Will Scan

So you’ve [made your own QR code]. Now what? You’re going to want to display that sucker! Get it out there so that people can scan it!

People are selective. They don’t watch every movie in the theater, listen to every song on iTunes or read every book just to see if they’re good. We don’t have that kind of time. So why would someone stop and scan every QR code just to see what it leads to? They call me “QRAZY” and even I don’t do that.

The trick is to put your QR code in a memorable place. Make people so intrigued they’ll want to go through the effort of pulling out their phone. They say not to judge a book by its cover, but we do. And we do it constantly. With QR codes, people have to judge by appearance. There is no blurb on the back of a QR code, and if there were it would ruin the fun anyway.

Imagine you’re at a restaurant. If you’re at all like my family, the conversation has already degraded to repetitious “I can’t wait ‘til the food gets here” and “I wonder when the food’s getting here.” Finally the waiter or waitress arrives with the dishes. You inhale your meal quicker than anyone else in your party, and as you eat you notice a strange design on your plate. You clear away the last of the food items blocking it and discover a QR code buried beneath your meal. As your colleagues or family members are still working their way through their meals, you pull out your smartphone and scan the little bugger. This is exactly what Boston sushi restaurant Taranta has done with the guidance of their chef and marketing expert José Duarte.

A QR code under food is all well and good but how about QR codes being the food? Check out these QR code cupcakes! These could be sold at a bakery with the code leading to the bakery’s website where they can order treats online or they could be sold at a local fundraising event and the code could lead to a website where people could donate more money to the cause. Everyone has a sweet tooth and there’s no way to gain exposure for your QR code like irresistible baked goods.

Maybe you don’t own a restaurant and baking isn’t necessarily your forte. Flyteblog has compiled a list with some other neat ideas. Some are being done pretty regularly at this point but a few are unique. I definitely found a favorite among the rest: If you’re especially qreative, you can etch a QR code into the bottom of your sandals so that when you step on the sand at the beach it leaves an imprint. This would take extreme intricacy and probably an extra few pairs of footwear before you get it right, but if you’re really looking to get people to check out your site it’s one heck of an idea. I know I couldn’t resist if I saw a QR code molded into the sand.

If you really want to leave an impression and give the people of the world a reason to scan your code, utilize theatrics. In 2011, to promote the release of his third album Lasers, rapper Lupe Fiasco told his Twitter followers to visit Union Square in New York City at a specific time on a certain date. When his fans showed up, there was a laser light show being projected on the side of a nearby warehouse. At the end of the show, a red laser QR code was displayed that took fans to a webpage where they could pre-order Lasers.

Of course, these are just examples but I feel they get across the right message. You can never be too creative when placing QR codes. Stamping a QR code on your business card or event flier is effective too, but they should be done in larger quantities. Making the cards or fliers as spectacular as possible is helpful, but it still won’t attract everyone who passes by. 

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Make Your Own QR Codes: A Step-by-Step Tutorial

I’ve written countless blogs explaining to you how everyone else is using QR codes, but I never bothered to explain just how you can do it yourself. I am such a negligent bloggerer. Making a QR code isn’t some intricate process. You don’t need to draw every little square yourself. There is a number of useful QR code generators right on these here internets.

One of the most popular is the generator from QR Code City. I will take you on a walkthrough of this program. To use all of the features, you will need to sign up for an account on the site. For now, let’s just stick to the standard code. To follow along, visit this page.

Locate the drop down menu where you can decide what you would like your QR code to display. For this tutorial we are going to make some simple text appear.

All you need to do is type in what you want your QR code to display on your phone when you scan it. Type that message in the white box next to “What text?”

I chose “QR Codes are Fun!”

Now you can customize the appearance of your QR code. It’s always going to have squares in the same places, but you can change the color or the texture of the code. Take a look at the drop down menus under step two. I left block shape as “square,” changed block effect to a nice “round” texture and left the block padding at 1. Now you can pick the color of your QR code on the palate to the right. My favorite color is orange, so I chose that.

Now move on to step three and since we didn’t log in, select “save as standard code.” Select what size you would like your code to be (bigger is better when you’re just getting started) and what file format you want to save it as. These decisions are completely up to you. Access the file on your computer and you should have your very own QR code to do with what you please.


There are other QR code generators out there. Each one follows this same basic creation method. I couldn’t possibly walk you through them all, so I’m leaving it up to you. Take what I’ve taught you and apply it to some of these other QR code generators.

BONUS EXTRA CREDIT ASSIGNMENT!!!!!!1

Likify is an interesting twist to QR code generation. Their codes will link to a custom landings page with a Facebook like button on it. Do not discredit the power of Facebook. It rivals Google for the number of hits it receives. This means that people are just as likely to pick up new information from Facebook. If people see your page next to the phrase “1,246,983 like this,” they’ll consider it more legitimate. By the way, I chose that number arbitrarily. There is no deeper meaning, but thank you Sigmund Freud. Likify does not forcibly add any likes to your Facebook page, so quell those feelings of dishonesty if they ail you so. However, you will need to create a profile on their site in order to use their services.

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App-less QR Readers

My [last post] was so happy and titillated thinking about the progress QR codes are making. But I concluded with a disgruntled sentence about app-less QR readers; ScanLife and JAGTAG in particular.

You might be thinking, “App-less QR readers? That sounds great! I can scan codes without a smart phone!”

Not so fast there, buddy.

These services offer alternatives to apps, sure, but don’t for a second think that there isn’t some process between you and the

Let’s start with ScanLife, which actually has an app available on the market. Their tagline for their app-less service is “Scan and Send.” You can take a picture of a QR code and then send it their way. They will decode it for you and then send back the appropriate content. Sounds innocent enough, but there is a catch. The two ways to send it to ScanLife are via text message and e-mail. Well, what if I don’t have unlimited texting? Am I expected to spend ten cents or subtract one from my monthly quota just to scan a QR code? It’s not worth it. But e-mails, those are free!

Case Study: The Ketchup Bottle

 

I scanned this code off of a Heinz ketchup bottle last week. My interest here is to send them an e-mail message with my picture and see what gets sent back. First I tried sending them an e-mail with my picture as an attachment. I got a response in under a minute. Boy was I excited…until I read this…

 
 “Unfortunately we could not recognize or locate the image you sent us.” 
 

And this…

“To scan codes automatically, just download the free ScanLife application right from your phone.”

I thought the point of sending you an e-mail was so I don’t have to use an application! Okay, maybe it is my error. I tried again, this time pasting the picture right into the body of my e-mail. Surely, now I would be able to have my QR code scanned…

 “Unfortunately we could not recognize or locate the image you sent us.” 

The ketchup bottle code scanned fine on my smartphone. I even scanned the picture again from my computer screen and there were no hurdles. While ScanLife has a noble purpose, they offer subpar quality and then use this inadequacy to convince you to download their app, the one you didn’t want in the first place.

Now let’s move on to JAGTAG. If you choose to send them a picture via e-mail, they will send you back a text message. Therefore you need to send the message via a phone and if you have a data package, you likely have a smartphone…one that can easily use apps. Okay, so e-mail is out for JAGTAG. But the company offers another fancy feature! You can send them a photo via Twitter. Great, I’ll just log in and…

Oh…they’ll respond to your tweet with a text message too. Apparently I’m supposed to use Twitter mobile…and if I have a phone decent enough to use Twitter mobile, it’s almost certainly a smartphone. Well, good. At least I could discredit JAGTAG’s services without having to do anything.

It looks like that data plan is still the most effective way of scanning QR codes. Don’t get me wrong – I feel the efforts of these companies are noble. They are trying to bring a still somewhat niche technology to a wider audience. In doing so, however, I feel they are misleading their users. This is the aspect I am unhappy with.

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Get EduQated – A Follow Up to My Tombstones Article

It feels like it’s been ages since I wrote an article where I discussed [carrying on your legacy using QR codes]. I concluded that article by pondering a few other educational uses for QR codes.

One of the Ph.D bloggers on Duke’s technology site has come up with a few clever options and I thought a couple would be worth sharing. First, you know how there is always some 1-800 number you’re instructed to call when you need technical support? QR codes can render those obsolete. Just scan the code on the side of your confusing piece of technology and your reader will take you to a page with instructions or a step-by-step video. Another of her ideas was to ask students to print out a QR code that holds their name, phone number and e-mail address. Then on the first day of class, students can go around and scan all the codes, putting the information in their phones. This project would be helpful both for learning names and exchanging information!

Multiple institutions of higher learning are already encouraging students and faculty to make use of QR technology in the classroom. The University of Wisconsin at River Falls has a PDF Guide for professors to use as a resource. The Chicago School of Professional Psychology provides a list of apps that they recommend for students to use. They seem to favor Quickmark, i-nigma, NeoReader, Barcode Scanner, Optiscan and QR App. Not a bad list. Someone did their homework….

Get it, because they’re students?

But the school that seems to be adapting QR codes most is Boise State University in Idaho. Particularly Albertsons, the campus library which has compiled a guide for students featuring recommended apps, QR encoding programs and your standard “what is” and “how to” sections. Their official blog is littered with QR codes leading to a mobile-compatible version of their site, directions to the library or to a convenient library guide so you won’t have to keep checking a stationary resource computer when you’re searching for books or information. Boise State University is really getting behind the technology and their vision for it must be grand. 

For encoding they recommend Google’s Chart Wizard, i-nigma, Kerem Erkan, Mobile-Barcodes, SPARQCode and the XZing Project. In terms of apps, Boise State recommends Barcode Scanner, Quickmark, i-nigma, Google Goggles and QR Droid for Android phones, Qrafter, i-nigma, Google Goggles and NeoReader for iPhone and QRem for Blackberry. They even threw in two names that irk me: JAGTAG and ScanLife. These are QR reading services that claim they don’t need apps or internet access to function, but these statements are misleading. I will go deeper in depth with my next blog post. 

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That QR Code – Is it Clean?

My father does not scan QR codes. He doesn’t use a smartphone, but I know that if he did, he still wouldn’t scan. Why is this? He’s scared of viruses. In fact, it seems a lot of people have this concern as of lately.

Let me clarify one fact that all too many people are getting twisted…

QR codes cannot give your phone a virus. I know I write all of these blogs glorifying QR codes and their technology – and it really is great – but the code itself is seriously just a design on a piece of paper. A QR code is more likely to give you a virus…if someone sneezes on it…

It’s the website that the code leads to that can give your device a virus. Be advised, you can’t pick up a virus from just scanning QR codes, you would have to go to a site that plants a virus on your phone. Scanning the latest Calvin Klein ad carries virtually no risk.

You’re always told that a virus is bad, but do you know why? A virus on your phone can be programmed to perform a number of malicious tasks. One example is it could send a multitude of expensive SMS messages. This happened once in Russia, on an Android, and the user was charged $6.00 for each message.

So how do you know if a QR code contains a virus? From looking at it, you can’t. Fortunately, your phone just doesn’t install a virus when it finds one. Your first sign will be when your phone processes the code. Most reader apps will ask permission before sending your browser to a particular site. If the site sounds shifty to you, don’t visit the site. If you are mistaken, you might be led to a site with a virus and it may begin downloading automatically. This happens sometimes. It’s not too late to save yourself. Use common sense: if you didn’t instruct your phone to download a file, cancel it. If somehow the file does slip through the cracks, most phones will ask if you’re absolutely sure you want to install a certain program. If this program has a name such as Virus.APK, don’t install it. For Android owners: if your phone asks for permission to allow your newly downloaded app to do one of these tasks, you best make sure it’s supposed to.

Hopefully your fears of getting a virus from a QR code are assuaged and that you keep common sense in your future scanning habits. Unfortunately, I’m certain no matter what facts I present to my old man, he’s still going to resist QR. If they ever invent a technology with the power of my father’s stubbornness, it will conquer the world.

Visit the Following Resources for More Information on Preventing Viruses from QR Codes.

2D Code

Trouble Fixers

Android Police

Tech XT

Techie Insider

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Quick Response and Nintendo

Back in August, Nintendo lowered the price of their 3DS handheld from $249.99 to $169.99. This was one of the largest and quickest price drops in video game hardware history. I’ve been curious about the 3DS since it was first announced in 2010, so I thought I’d use the opportunity to pick one up. Packaged along with my fancy new 3DS was a pack of cards, seen below. 

 

These are known as Augmented Reality Cards. Scanning them with the 3DS turns the card and whatever it’s resting on into a target to shoot or a dragon to slay. Unfortunately I can’t provide you with a picture because of the 3D technology, but believe me, it’s impressive! Also, it felt a bit familiar. I’m sure you can see where I’m going with this…

THE AR CARDS ARE VARIATIONS OF QR CODES!!!!

 

As you can see from this image: the 3DS not only capable of reading QR codes, but it can generate them as well! I tried to scan a QR code with my 3DS. It recognized it immediately! However, I was quickly met with disappointment.

 

It seems Nintendo has made the 3DS compatible only with QR codes that contain Mii characters, the avatars that you can use on the menu and in certain games to represent your player. You can scan them, or make one, code it up and post it online for someone else to scan.

Why this is Good: Nintendo is using QR technology for bigger, or at least different purposes. It is no longer just a service for use with your cellular phone. Although Nintendo’s products are usually far behind when it comes to graphics and processing power, they are often the leader in innovation. While they weren’t the first to use motion controls, it was the Wii that popularized them. Microsoft soon followed suit with Kinect and Sony with the PlayStation Move. The question is: will this happen again? If so, and the other two major console manufacturers jump on the bandwagon, QR could become bigger than any of us ever imagined.

Why this it Bad: Nintendo’s use of QR codes is far too limited. When the 3DS first launched it did not have a web browser, so I can understand why functionality with all QR codes was not included. However, now the web browser is available. Allowing 3DS owners to use their device to scan QR codes could serve as an alternative to using a cell phone. And if a company can store a 3D ad in a QR code, the 3DS would be able to display it in all its glory. This guy agrees with me.

I’d like to point out that this isn’t the first time Nintendo has tried to utilize this technology. The e-reader peripheral for the Game Boy Advance required you to scan cards by swiping them through the device. This is indeed barcode technology. The e-reader was not hugely successful, but then again, this was during the time before there was a market for QR codes. I would like to see how Nintendo fairs this time around.

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Let QR Codes Carry on Your Legacy

How do you want to be remembered when you die? My obituary might say QR code blogger, smartphone enthusiast, survived by an ironic CD collection. But there’s more to me, I swear! What about the little stories that had a huge impact on my life. You probably don’t care now but what would happen if these blogs were the equivalent of Edgar Allan Poe two hundred years from now? Wouldn’t people want to know a little bit more about me? What makes me tick?

And what about you? Whether you’re John Doe or John Adams, you left an impact on this earth. You deserve to have your story heard in more words than a paragraph in a newspaper. Or website, rather. It’s looking like most of us will outlive newspapers.

Where am I going with this? I’m sure you can guess it involves QR codes and indeed it does. I recently came across this article from USA Today that describes a tombstone company, Quiring Monuments, that designs headstones with built-in QR codes. By scanning these “living headstones,” people can learn more about the person who rests there. The data could contain any information, a last will-and-testament, advice for survivors or even their life story the way they wanted it told.

Japan seems to have been using this concept for some time. It applies for the recently deceased and also for people who passed long ago. Quiring Monuments has announced that they can add a QR code to a grave for a fee of only $65. That’s pretty cheap for a legacy! It also got me thinking. If they haven’t done so already, they will soon be adding QR codes near the graves of national icons. Any time you drive past a historic landmark there is a sign to read with some background info. Famous and nonfamous tombstones may very well end up the same. The QR codes can basically be treated as your encyclopedia.

Now think of the other possibilities…

You read similar descriptions when you go to the zoo or the aquarium. You use little cards to learn about what an animal is called and where it comes from. I rarely see this information exceed a paragraph. If the space was used for a QR code instead, you could scan it and access a whole encyclopedia of information about the ring tailed lemur or whatever it is you’re watching scratch itself. In case you haven’t already clicked on that USA Today article, there is also some information of this being done on a nature trail in Florida. Yes, yes, YES! This is the kickstart we need to get smartphones in every household. They called television a fad, they called computers and the internet a fad and they’re calling QR codes a fad too. But I honestly believe with capabilities like these, it will be the next technology to prove them wrong…whoever “they” may be.

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Nappy Roots Go QRAZY for their New Album

Nappy Roots Go QRAZY for their New Album

When I buy my music, I buy it from the source. I don’t care if Amazon has the best deal or if iTunes is offering some bonus track. I trust that if I go to an artist’s website, they will guide me to where they want me to buy their music from. Well, on October 11 one of my favorite hip-hop groups, Nappy Roots, released a new album. You might not remember these guys, but they were the folks who made “Awnaw” back in 2002. It was their debut single and easily their biggest hit. Well Nappy Roots is still around and their new album is actually the name of their website Nappy Dot Org. Therefore, it wasn’t hard for me to figure out where to go to order. When I got there I was pleasantly surprised! Looks like Nappy has kept up with the times, their site had a huge QR code right at the top. As I scrolled the page I kept seeing the same QR code pop up. I was happy the band is using the technology to their advantage but there is such thing as oversaturation. That’s when I took a closer look and made a shocking discovery…

Their album cover is a giant QR code!!

I wasn’t seeing repetition of the same QR code; I was seeing the album cover again and again. What a fascinating marketing scheme…many artists will design promotional stickers and ads with QR codes so that you go to their website or download a song for free, hoping you become a fan and eventually buy the CD. Nappy has skipped that step. If you see their CD in the store, you can scan it, check them out online and decide right then and there if you’re interested.

I just ordered the CD from their online store…a hard copy so I have a record of the brilliant cover. Of course, this is one of those ideas that will only work once. If other artists use QR codes as their album covers, it would be unoriginal. Nappy Roots isn’t setting any industry standards, but they did jump on the idea before anyone else could. For that, I salute them. You can check out Nappy Roots and their QR album cover at their official website: Nappy Dot Org

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What App Should I Get?

What App Should I Get?

So you know about these QR things and how they work but you still don’t know how (or haven’t bothered) to try to scan them yourself. I’m going to hate myself for using this phrase but there’s an app for that. It’s not brain surgery to hit up the marketplace and download one, but it can be frustrating trying to find one that’s worthwhile.

QR Stuff actually has a great article about how certain QR readers don’t stack up against the competition. For example, some QR codes are in color but not all QR readers can interpret that. Also (and this one really aggravates me) a few of these app designers assume that all QR codes are just going to websites so they don’t design versatile readers that can handle music downloads or other possibilities. 

Most QR reader apps are free downloads while others tend to cost between $0.99 and $1.99. The apps with a cost are generally sponsored by companies such as Apple or Google or they boast that they have faster technology than the competition. All of my colleagues use free QR readers and not one has ever expressed any issue. Albeit, they are patient people – but if you have the time to stop and scan a code, you probably have the time to wait a few extra seconds for your app to retrieve the data.

I know plenty of folks with iPhones but my people are more into Android phones. I started out using Barcode Scanner but I switched over to Quickmark. I never had any problems with Barcode Scanner, I just wanted to try out a different app. Oddly enough, Quickmark actually has a fee on the iPhone but it’s free to use with Android. Score another one for Droid! Barcode Scanner has been downloaded over ten million times. That really says a lot about its likeability. It also shows that the QR codes industry is already very serious. Don’t delay any longer. Get yourself an app!

The iTech Blog made a Top 11 List for Android QR apps (Top 10 lists are obsolete). I was actually surprised to see Quickmark at number six being beaten out by Barcode Scanner and ShopSavvy among others. I suppose making the list is significant in and of itself. Anyway, check out their list here. And iPhone, Blackberry and Windows Phone users, don’t think I forgot about you. 708 Media put together a mini catalog of the best reader apps. Check it out here and definitely let me know if you find a new app I should try.

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