Click On My Face

This is a artistic steganography try. It talks...
There could be a link encoded in this image. There isn't, but there could be.

Yesterday I was discussing QR codes, and the possibility of turning the actual text in magazines or on posters into links. I see no reason why in the very near future you couldn’t go to a Web page, video or other online resource simply by pointing a phone at a printed URL. These methods could help revive the flagging newspaper and magazine industries, by introducing a much greater integration between the printed page and the Internet. For example you could easily share a magazine article with Facebook friends.

An idea that I can see supplanting even this though is a form of steganography – that is, encoding links and other data into pictures, in such a way that they can be read by machine without being visible to humans. Actually this is already used for anti-forgery systems; Adobe Photoshop for example will refuse to handle scans of Euro notes because it recognizes a pattern hidden in the design. The same method could turn photographs into clickable links when you look at them through your phone.

And print designers will absolutely love this. Not only do they not require blocky codes or funny fonts, they can make tired elements like www and .com finally vanish from their pages. So these I think will be with us pretty soon. Until they’re eventually replaced by RFID ink.

One reply on “Click On My Face”

The reason this isn’t happening yet is because of the difficulty of getting a good quality picture of whatever from your smartphone (even though they all have great cameras in them). The user would have to photograph from the exact right angle, get enough of the image, and their lens must be clean enough to not cover up any important bits of the picture (which in my experience is the main problem with cameras on phones – the lens is permanently exposed and collects dust and gunk like nobody’s business). So, for right now, for ease of use, the best method is those QR codes (with their being easy to distinguish from the rest of a picture, plus the three box allows the software to easily automatically orient the code, etc). You are right that in the near future they won’t be necessary, but by the time that’s the case the newspaper/magazine industry may not be able to recover (especially if the kindle/nook/ipad become commonplace, in which case the magazine and newspaper industry that survives will be purely digital anyways).

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