I don’t usually get carried away by gadgets or technological innovations. Usually don’t hype about them either. I might talk about them, review them, discuss them. Yes, you can call me gear-head if you want – but just because of that, I’m also very used to technology. I am not easily impressed.
But this time I do. I am. Totally. Read my lips. A bold statement:
This might be one of the coolest things happening to us working within the media, rich media and multimedia context during the next couple of years.
I really mean it.
Bear with me – and just play with me for 5 minutes. You won’t regret it.
Do the following:
- Take your iPhone, go to the iTunes app section, and load an app called “SCAN” into your phone (if you do not have an iPhone, but do have a Nokia, Samsung, etc. you might get a corresponding app from this link).
- Flip the SCAN app on. Do nothing else but to point it at the “checkerboard” -symbol on the right.
- Stop – take a deep breath – what did just happen?
If you are into rich content / multimedia production – and you haven’t seen this before – I just got you attention, right?
If everything worked as it should have, your iPhone was directed to a simple image gallery (JS, HTML5, some of my old images for demo only) which you can scroll by tapping. But question naturally is: how did that happen?
You scanned a visual code – called the QR code – and automatically your phone opened the destination site. It opened the site in the app window (if you were using SCAN) but look at the lower right corner: if you want the content to display in browser (and flip between vertical and horizontal), one touch and you open it in Safari. Could not be simpler, right?
Now that you have got the hang of it, try the other three QR codes on the right I made for demo purposes only.
- Try the first one and you get a video. Not to bore you with my own stuff, I chose a scene from one of my favorite films of all times: Robert Altman’s Nashville with Keith Carradine and Lily Tomlin (embedded from UTube). But it could be anything: Vimeo, your own server, etc.
- Try the next one and you end up into a 360°x180° panoramic image you can swirl around with your finger. Tap to full screen, pinch to zoom in and out.
- Try the last one and you end up on google earth pointing to a specific location in Helsinki, Finland.
Pretty cool, huh?
Forget the content for a while now – I just quickly scrambled something up to show this as a demo. But think about what is really happening in here:
By scanning with free software – one touch of a button to switch it on – your mobile device is accessing rich content – content with no limits: images, text, audioslideshows, video, audio, maps, sms, email, etc. By scanning a small bw-image – very much like a postal stamp – your mobile device can end up on any content/application you could ever desire to access in the web.
Call me crazy, but if I were a newspaper publisher, I’d go WOW. Several times. Loud.
How Could I Use This?
Suppose you are doing a simple one page story on somebody. Some text and 1-2 images on a printed newspaper page. You embed this “stamp” in the lower right corner of the page. Now, anybody who is interested in e.g. seeing more images on this person can access them by simply pointing their smart phone at the stamp (i.e. the QR code). Now, suppose your protagonist is an actor. Your “stamp” might lead to a movie trailer you were discussing in your article. Whatever you can think of , you can link to it. From a physical printed page.
Still not convinced? Let me paint you another scenario:
Say Madonna is having a concert in Helsinki. You run a story in you paper the day of the concert – note, the same day, not the day after (well, if Madonna performs in Helsinki, you hype about it for a week at least… ,-)
Anyway: the story on your paper can have couple of these “stamps”: one like my last demo – accessing google maps or google earth – which ever you prefer – showing how to get to the venue. Second maybe showing the subway/tram timetables etc. – i.e some essential information you’d need about the venue. Third stamp might be advertising an imagegallery you can view when you leave the venue…. Note: to view now – not tomorrow: in the subway or on the bus, on your way home. The photographer who shoots the tree first songs has the gallery ready and playing well before the show is over and you head homewards. And if you are a publisher: I am 100% sure this same person buys your physical paper also tomorrow to see “the best of the best” -images, etc. – now that he/she has gotten a mobile preview.
As it’s been said before: it is not about the news, it’s about the content. It’s about experiencing, reliving the feeling/the experience, over and over again.
Let’s still take it further:
You have done both of the mentioned stories above. Your paper has established a solid reputation that you are routinely using this “hip” technology to show high quality rich content on mobile devices. Then what do you do next?
You teach this to your advertizers: when Toyota or whoever buys half a page add in you paper, you ask them to embed this kind of stamp to the end of their add. Readers who are interested in the product simply just scan the image with their phone and are immediately directed to the mobile websites with rich content, videos, etc. – displaying the object of desire – be it in this case the latest Toyota or what ever.
Or simply: you have a news story which is developing rapidly. You insert “keep up with the latest on your mobile” -stamp on your page when the paper goes to print. And the next day the reader has access to the relevant fresh news on this.
This totally blows my mind. This is the first time ever I see any technological interface working between the legacy daily print and the mobile devices. First time. So far it has been a lame “Please look at the video on our website” or “More content on our site” printed in the end of the story. This makes the apparently impossible a total breeze: rich content multimedia thru the physical print.
Beyond the Newspaper Publishing
Above I pitched ideas for the daily print. But, obviously: there is no limit to the use of this in other contexts. It’s just that multimedia, photography and the future of the media in general are close to my heart. Let me just digress a little:
I take a walk thru Porvoo, my hometown, in the evening and here are couple of other ideas which just pop to mind, just to throw you some examples:
I go swimming to the local pool on a daily basis. During the holidays they always have unusual opening hours. If they had a QR code just plastered on the front door: on my way in one night I’d get all the time schedules immediately recorded into my phone. Sure, I could check them in the web as well when I get home. Try to find them on the municipality information page… well, trust me, that would take a while (as municipal bureaucracy and dynamic web content do not go that well together, at least not in my town… ;-))
But you get the drift: any information, any time schedules, etc.
I walk past the local theater: a poster of theater performance – with a QR stamp so you get all the time schedules and link to to order tickets with your phone. One touch of a button.
I think about the real estate adds I see in the window of a local real estate agent – all the images, graphics and relevant info into your phone by just pointing it to the code…
I think about education, e.g. a teacher giving homework to kids after a class… I think about local restaurants advertizing in our local paper: the link from their stamp might give you the lunch menu of the week right into your phone….
A friend of mine comes to mind: he is a pretty famous maker of documentary movies and I just think that he might benefit of a “extended business card” – say like a postcard which would in addition to the contact information and a small synopsis of his present film plus 1-2 images have this code. Anybody truly interested could just scan it and have immediate access to his website and a trailer / screening version of his movie. Colleagues, potential buyers he meets in movie festivals etc. When they are getting home and spending time in trains, airports, etc. they might take a look at his work thru their smart phones?
And yes, finally the obvious one: being a photographer, maybe I should put a miniature stamp on the backside of my business card – in case after our meeting on the way home you might want to view my portfolio on your phone?
You understand why I am hyperventilating? :-)
Is this New – What Does it Cost – How Does it Work?
No, QR code is not new, it’s been around since the nineties. It’s just that practically nobody has made any use of it for presenting multimedia and rich content. At least I am not aware of any such efforts in our daily print.
Money? It costs you nothing. Zip. Zero. Nada. Niente. Rien. Ingenting. Ei mitään.
Using it is very simple. You create the code using free software like the QR Code Generator and define what function and/or which website you would like the mobile device to link to. It can be a website, google earth/maps, facebook, twitter, sms, email, etc. The program then simply generates a bw-image which you just place on a printed page – or on a webpage, no matter really, you can put it anywhere: T-shirt, project it on a wall… Pointing the phone to that stamp with appropriate software links you to the target.
Then – as a media consumer – the only thing you need is a QR reader in your smart phone. For iPhone there are about a dozen or so to choose from which are free – and another dozen which costs you about the price of a cup of coffee. I mentioned already the SCAN app; my other two favorites presently are “RedLaser” and “I-nigma 4”, both available in the iTunes for free. There are still some bugs in several of these programs and they all have their strong points and their weak points. But they share the fact that they are dead easy to use.
Does not get more simple than that, does it?
Why Would You Want to Get into This – and How about the iPad?
You could argue that you can always type a web address into your smart phone. Yeah, right… My 48-year-old eyes and my fingers resembling short cut frankfurters do not enjoy tapping long arbitrary web addresses consisting of all kind of weird symbols onto an iPhone and seeing if I got it right – which very rarely happens. In that respect, QR looks like God-given.
Simplicity and ease of use: the cornerstones of how Apple for instance has made its success.
iPad? It does not have a camera – and you can already type with the larger display . You do not always have it with you whereas the majority of us do not leave the house without our smart phone. Yes, I might chance opinion with the next generation of iPads which naturally will have built-in cameras, but presently it’s a no go. But sure, yes: if you want to get a bit more technical, you can always set your smart phone and iPad to sync their browser bookmarks and thus view the content on the iPad as well… but that sort of undermines the above mentioned simplicity and ease of use -argument.
Augmented Reality of the Esquire Magazine
Some of you might have seen e.g. the Augmented Reality Issue the Esquire Magazine published some time ago with Robert Downing Jr. (see the video). Or something similar. But there are two major differences:
- It was done to get the WOW-effect. It was one time only, not taken into daily production. Not intended to really create daily rich content which might benefit the paper and the brand beneath it in the long run.
- It was done by pointing a printed magazine to a webcam. Kind of pointless, if you think about it. A world of difference when you do it with a mobile device you carry all the time with you. Not to get the WOW but to distribute useful information.
I hope I have made my point. I did try to make it as concisely as I could – and with not too much passion sneaking through. But it was hard :-). Damn it was hard.
I honestly think this is really, really cool. Way past cool, actually. Remains to be seen if anybody else – and hopefully a publisher or two – sees it the same way.