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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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  • by chetbox ( 1335617 ) on Tuesday January 13, 2009 @06:34AM (#26430415)
    Nokia have had something similar for ages, but the adoption hasn't been all that quick: http://mobilecodes.nokia.com/ [nokia.com] However Microsoft do seem to be making it more obvious to the observer that you need a phone to decode these mysterious images.
  • Server management (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Sobrique ( 543255 ) on Tuesday January 13, 2009 @06:46AM (#26430491) Homepage
    We have asset tags on our servers. To this day I think it'd be very handy to have encoded 'asset important information' on a 'tag' style thing.

    I mean, imagine - blip that server in the corner there, and in my hand I now have everything I need to know about it - configuration, downtime constraints, owners, where it's plugged into, etc.

    Also, supermarkets - being able to do 'extended show info' on a product, based on personal preferences. Allergy information is the most useful one, but even things like recipe suggestions (look, yummy strawberries - have you considered how they might go with cream, or dipped in chocolate?) or ... well, just simple things like collating 'standard information' about stuff in your shopping, like storage life and nutritional value and pricing.

  • by infofarmer ( 835780 ) <infofarmer@FreeBSD.org> on Tuesday January 13, 2009 @07:24AM (#26430735) Homepage
    Is it just me, or do MS tags look like 50 positions of 4 colors, i.e. 100 bits, which, minus error correction, probably boils down to 64-80. It's obvious you need a server-based resolver to convert these few bytes into an URL. Now guess who manages the server and how much do they want to charge for each entry.
  • Big difference (Score:5, Interesting)

    by spectrokid ( 660550 ) on Tuesday January 13, 2009 @07:38AM (#26430827) Homepage
    QR code has the data embedded in the tag. This thing seems to be just a pointer to a record in a MS database. So MS gets a copy of all your data, AND you need to be online to read it. Thanks but no thanks.
  • OK, where's the submarine patent?

    Oh, they're playing silly games even before we get that far...

    Let's see... the second link has a nice deceptive picture of the two technologies not to scale, but printed against each other so it looks like the color coded one is smaller. Then there's an actual scale comparison, but the Microsoft one is only an encoded link, so it contains less data than the tags it's compared with. There's no reason you can't swipe your iPhone over a UPC and look it up online (I've done that with my cue-cat).

    And of course "A nice side-effect of this is also the ability for publishers to gather reporting data on how many times it was seen." Nice. Right. Plus, Microsoft gets that data as well. And of course it's got all the downsides of any cloud technology... if the server's down or you're not online you're stuck.

  • by kobotronic ( 240246 ) on Tuesday January 13, 2009 @09:41AM (#26431819)

    Visually I think the garish colors of these microsoft codes are going to be hard to incorporate in many graphics designs. QR codes may look busy but given their longtime adoption in Japan they have become iconic and accepted in many contexts. At least QR codes are monochrome - goes with pretty near everything.

    It is true that huge binary QR payloads makes for big tags, but that's also a rare application. QR codes are more often used for simply encoding URLs and email addresses, which is fine - achieves what these microsoft tags do, in roughly the same space, while remaining independent on any sole service provider acting as gate keeper for delivering the rereferenced payload, and the tag can be printed in monochrome on darn near everything.

    When QR encoded URLs reference server-hosted payloads, the user has the power to choose how and on which terms the client technology parses and retrieves the referenced payload. The QR parser can for example decode a human-readable URL which can be manually transcribed to any web browser.

    Aside from these observations, I think Microsoft tags would be almost acceptable if part of the encoded tag data was a URL for the payload decoding service, so as to permit non-microsoft entities to occupy the gatekeeper position. But overall, the net impression is that the Microsoft Tag is too proprietary, not robust enough, and of too little use to be considered a reasonable alternative to QR codes or other forms of payload-in-the-code tags.

I THINK MAN INVENTED THE CAR by instinct. -- Jack Handley, The New Mexican, 1988.