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Microsoft Tag, Smartphone-Scannable Barcodes 258

dhavleak writes "Microsoft Research has come up with Microsoft Tag: '...just aim your camera phone at a Tag and instantly access mobile content, videos, music, contact information, maps, social networks, promotions, and more. Nothing to type, no browsers to launch!' Device support is fairly extensive (iPhone, WinMo, BlackBerry and more), and tag scanning appears to work quickly and reliably from different distances and angles. Long Zheng has an overview on his site. The Tag is similar to a barcode, but has obvious visual differences — colored vs. black and white, and triangles vs. squares or lines. The technology looks interesting, but will it get the adoption necessary to be successful? What applications do you see for such technology?"
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Microsoft Tag, Smartphone-Scannable Barcodes

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  • Applications (Score:5, Insightful)

    by James_Duncan8181 ( 588316 ) on Tuesday January 13, 2009 @06:38AM (#26430435) Homepage

    Hmmm...adverts/spam would be the main application I'd imagine. Also a way to get someone to a URL that they cannot check before hand as the symbol is only machine readable. This looks like a great way to get people to exploit pages.


  • Re:Applications (Score:2, Insightful)

    by jeffs72 ( 711141 ) on Tuesday January 13, 2009 @06:40AM (#26430453) Journal
    Heh, won't be long before there are shirts with Microsoft Tag for and Goatsex anyone? Ew.
  • by Sobrique ( 543255 ) on Tuesday January 13, 2009 @07:01AM (#26430589) Homepage
    Several people have had 'barcodes' for phones, but the problem has always been one of image recognition. I've just tried my WinMo phone on the image on the MS website, off my screen. I was quite impressed at how well it managed to cope actually - it doesn't seem to require particularly much image quality to differentiate the layout, which is quite a step ahead of the 'snowflakes' I've seen doing this sort of thing before.
  • by Tikaro ( 726048 ) on Tuesday January 13, 2009 @07:04AM (#26430617) Homepage
    The thing I like about payload-in-code formats, like QRCode, is that the information is actually out there in the world with you, albeit in a machine-readable format. The URL actually, you know, is sharing your space.

    With a payload-on-server code, the thing in the code isn't meaningful, even in to a machine, unless the WHOLE chain is working -- internet connection, server, the whole nine yards.

    QRcode just seems, I dunno, more "honest."
  • by xiando ( 770382 ) on Tuesday January 13, 2009 @07:27AM (#26430759) Homepage Journal
    CueCat, QT, it's just a fancy barcode. Except that Microsoft can charge everyone who uses or implements their version of the barcode. Reinventing the wheel IS profitable. This is ODF vs OOXML all over again except that this time there is no open format available as an alternative. Hackers should get right on making an open fancy-barcode standard, and where oh where is RMS on this issue?
  • by tonytnnt ( 1335443 ) on Tuesday January 13, 2009 @07:50AM (#26430893)

    Not a new idea in any case, and the color one looks like shit, even though they can store more bits.

    Now that I think about it, wouldn't QR Code have a HUGE advantage in some print advertising because it's black and white vs. color? I mean, I know that Tag appears to fit into a 4 color process, but it just seems like a 1 color process would be more advantageous... or am I completely off base here?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 13, 2009 @08:02AM (#26430973)

    Yes, but the CueCat was a special-purpose device. If the function is in your phone then it's much more useful.

  • by mad_robot ( 960268 ) on Tuesday January 13, 2009 @09:32AM (#26431679)

    Tail wagging the dog? Very unlikely.

    QR code is an open standard. They can be used freely, in other words.

    The popularity of QR codes in Japan is at least partly due to their ability to store Japanese text which is very difficult to type in on mobile handsets.

  • by plover ( 150551 ) * on Tuesday January 13, 2009 @09:34AM (#26431715) Homepage Journal

    The advantage of keeping the info inside the code is you are not dependant on a serviceprovider to interpret the code. That's maybe a key feature here when involving MS (and Beetagg an a few more).

    Many services uses a subscription based system where a 2D-code, only has a function as long as the subscription beeing paid.

    There are counter arguments that Microsoft would raise against these kinds of objections.

    • They only work when you're on line, or through their service provider. Well, if the advertisers goal is to get you to their web site, they're not going to do them any good when you're offline, no matter who you're offline to. They would push this argument like "well, you depend on DNS, don't you?"
    • You have to pay Microsoft to host the real URL in their service. Microsoft may be trying to offer statistical or other tracking information that could be more valuable to companies than simply a URL. For example, they could deliver geographical information along with the interpreted URL, telling the site what city or cell tower you scanned it from, or passing along your ID plus your scanning history. I'm not saying that's good from a user or privacy perspective, but it sounds great if you're trying to sell services to companies.

    I'm not saying that I disagree with you, I'm just saying that Microsoft is fully aware of the limitations, and will have taken these arguments into account. Microsoft is making a big push to become the SaaS provider to the world, and being the focal point for direct-to-consumer barcode marketing would be very appealing to them.

  • by dhavleak ( 912889 ) on Tuesday January 13, 2009 @09:46AM (#26431871)

    Many services uses a subscription based system where a 2D-code, only has a function as long as the subscription beeing paid. Guess what system MS in using? Real info or interpreted/serverbased?

    You make it sound like a really damning accusation.. I'm still trying to figure out what the problem is..

    Say Epic decides to put a Microsoft Tag on the box of Gears of War 3. On scanning it, you get directed to a website with your gamer stats for GoW3. Epic created a tag and associated their data (the URL of their site) with it, and paid Microsoft some fee for the service. You scanned it, got sent to their site, didn't pay anybody anything. I don't understand why you would have a problem with that.

    In terms of the privacy implications (MS knowing that you looked up this URL) - that's a bit paranoid wouldn't you say? Are you saying you don't use webmail or something? Or do you not use Google because they know what you're searching for? You've probably left a footprint on this very site that's far greater than anything you will ever leave by scanning a barcode. Sure there are questions about privacy, data retention, etc. -- but it's no different than any online service you have ever used.

  • by EgoWumpus ( 638704 ) on Tuesday January 13, 2009 @01:41PM (#26435989)

    On the other hand, if I go to Delta's website to see my flight information, only Delta really knows I did so - and may not know it's me specifically if I'm not required to log in. In this case, though, Microsoft (or other service provider) knows I 'went to Delta's website' - or whatever else the tag-shortcut did for me.

    On the whole, I think that the ability to have real-world hyperlinks (because, face it, that's what they are) is really valuable. On the other hand, I don't think that it needs to be a monetized service. I can't think of a reason that a protocol couldn't be developed that scanning apps would implement; for that matter, given text recognition software, how hard is it to program a phone to read in a url and tell it's onboard browser to go to it? Or any of the other diverse possible applications?

    Essentially; what is Microsoft's role in this? Is it a critical role (you *need* the centralized server for some reason), or are they creating a false market segment?

Loose bits sink chips.