Attentive Gazette readers understand that I'm fascinated by QR codes, those little boxes filled with random tiny squares that lead to a website when scanned on a smartphone. They're becoming ubiquitous in printed material, and yet I continue to find surprising implementations. Like this one, which I found embedded in a story in Cycle World magazine earlier today.
Sorry for the poor quality of the photo, but I'm sure you can make out the motorcycle theme, a hand gripping the bike's bar. The scattered black and white dots can be scanned to lead to the web URL shown below the image, assuming you have the right scanning software.
And that's the rub...same as it's always been. Not every scanning app can read every QR code. My favorite scanning program, Red Laser, couldn't interpret this particular design. On the other hand, Microsoft's Tag app was able to scan the graphic, and I later learned that's because this isn't actually a QR code but a Tag, which is Microsoft's implementation of the 2D bar code. (Is anyone surprised that Microsoft would come up with their own version of technology rather than cooperating with a standard that's already in place? I didn't think so.)
You've probably seen the traditional Tags before - they're most often squares filled with multi-colored triangles and parallelograms in seemingly random patterns. The Tags with the dots are less common; I suspect that they don't carry as much embedded information, and that's why the dots can be placed over a graphic (or embedded in one) and still be scannable.
Dots alone don't make a tag a Tag, if that makes sense. For example, the following QR code [source] was not recognized by the Tag app, but is easily scanned by Red Laser:
I continue to believe that the QR code, or at least the concept of embedded scannable graphics, has great potential, but these compatibility issues need to be ironed out before they'll ever truly be mainstream. There's no good reason why someone should have to employ two or three or four apps in order to find one that will read a given code.