Mobile QR codes User experience

A quick QR code update

As regular readers know, we’ve been trialling QR codes and a little while back rolled them on a small selection of object labels in a Japanese fashion display.

I’ve been keep an eye on their usage and some of the continuing problems around lighting, shadows, and low-resolution mobile phone cameras like the current iPhone 3G. So far usage has been, as expected, low. Firstly, the target audience for the exhibition content has, not surprisingly, not been very tech-savvy. Secondly, the ‘carrot’ isn’t clear enough to cause the audience to respond to the call to action.

More critically, one thing we still haven’t quite gotten right is the image size and error correction.

Shortly after the last post we upped the error correction in the codes to 30% (meaning that up to about 30% of the image can be obscured and it still scans – although it is isn’t evenly spread). This alone wasn’t enough.

With the long URLs encoded in the codes plus the error correction the resulting QR codes were even more ‘dense’ and hard to scan with 2 megapixel cameras. We’ve now done another set of codes with our own version of TinyURLs that generate locally. This has reduced the encoded characters from nearly 70 to around 25 characters – thus a far less dense code.

Even so, 2 megapixel cameras have patchy results when obscured by lens flare or shadow so our current thinking is that in the future the codes may need to be as much as 50% bigger.

8 replies on “A quick QR code update”

QR is something I really been taking a liking to! I been using to generate my codes, they have a few cool functions, you can upload a logo to the center of the QR code, this is something I think is kinda cool. Hope to see more QR codes in the U.S ;)

@Pete Definitely . . . although we’re talking a lot of lightboxes then!

I visited the Japanese fashion display and then realised that I hadn’t loaded a QR reader onto my phone. Doh!

50% bigger would make them very big, particularly for such a neatly displayed exhibition. I would be worried that they would start to dominate the label space. It would be like having an overly large sponsors logo on every label.

Would it help if they were etched, rather than printed? Or would the subsequent shadow lines cause more problems than they would solve? And then there is the expense, and the time…

At OOKL, we have looked at QR codes as an alternative way of accessing venue content on the mobile and have concluded that it is a waste of time for the average user. We use two letter codes which take a second to type into your phone and bring back results in a few seconds too. Until QR or other technologies are as simple as this we’re not changing

is anyone aware of these being used as marketing offers- ie special discounts at retailers- coupon promotions etc?

We ran into the QR Code density issue as well while we were developing the iCandy QR Code authoring application and came up with a method to make them much less dense while embedding data that allowed us to track the codes for analytics. We embed the creator’s user id, relevent meta info, etc. When the QR Code is scanned, it hits the server, gets decoded and then the device is directed to the appropriate content.

We’re planning our first art gallery+qr code installation in Palo Alto in May. In the meantime we’ll continue to follow your experiences – you’re definitely blazing a new trail in combining offline+online content in a new interactive way.

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