QR codes are dumb codes.

Jeb Cashin - GravatarBob and others I’ve worked with know I don’t like QR codes (for marketing anyway.) They may not always remember why I don’t like them. QR codes are a re-tooling of an ancient technology (2D bar codes) that were re-born to fail by the very trend they attempted to build on: smart phones. And they don’t really solve a problem for the user, rather they create a problem of having to get a QR code reader.

They are also ugly blotches to incorporate into design.

Barcodes (whether 1 dimensional or 2 dimensional) are “machine readable” codes that are designed to be read very quickly by very dumb machines. QR codes are a marketing fad that serve no other purpose other than to use them.

Smart phones are not dumb. They are smart enough to recognize faces, text, and objects. Try out Google Goggles if you haven’t. I had one recognize Dwight Shrute’s head on a mug! Smart phones don’t need dumb print blotches.

I just redeemed an iTunes card using a feature I had not seen before: “Use your camera.” I clicked on it, held the card up to the camera, and was surprised by what happened. I thought it was going to read the barcode on the back. Instead, it found the human-readable text and read that.

iTunes uses camera to read $10 gift card code.

Two things to note:

1. Not directly related, but note how the camera view is backwards, which is a default for some reason with computers and phones. I think this mirror view is just more comfortable because things move the way we have been trained (with hand held mirrors.)

2. But the iTunes reader quickly found and boxed in the human-readable text code (not bar code), interpreted it, and displayed it back to me with a reinforcing message. It was almost instantaneous. And it was friendly enough to show me the code frontwards (not backwards like the actual shot.)

That’s smart cod(ing).