Saturday, May 7, 2011

QR Codes in Museums

Our founder and friend, Will Phillips, provided the following in an email to his health club roundtable members this week. It holds for our museum colleagues, too, so I've redrafted slightly and reposted.

A QR code is a specific matrix barcode readable by dedicated QR readers and camera phones. The code consists of black modules arranged in a square pattern on a white background. The information encoded can be text, URL, or other data.

Common in Japan, created by Toyota subsidiary Denso-Wave in 1994, the QR code is one of the most popular types of two-dimensional barcodes. QR, abbreviated from Quick Response, as the creator intended the code to allow its contents to be decoded at high speed. QR codes can hold over 7,000 characters, providing a rich data delivery.

Natali Del Conte of CNET explains QR codes in a short video. Google encourages the use of QR codes in their Favorite Places campaign by asking business to show QR codes in their windows and advertisements, leading to rich data resource. Google's Android also moved QR adoption in the US. Since the Android market is small screen only, it is common for users to scan the QR code from a web page or another phone's screen or a print ad as Del Conte explains. QR codes can link to your electronic calendar, website, videos, coupons, promotions, and invitations.

Would QR codes on an object label in a museum usefully extend the information available to the visitor? Could discounts be offered on the museum website encourage visitation during slow times? Since interest is just building, would some visitors be attracted to this now "secret" way of gaining access? Since we all carry our phones 27/7, mobile marketing is apparently the next wave.

p.s from Mary Case: I’ve downloaded the recommended iPhone app, Neoreader, but so far haven’t had success in decoding anything. Onward!


Paul Orselli said...

Hi Mary,

Thanks for this post about the potential of QR codes in museums.

I worry a little about creating yet another "digital divide." Not everyone has "smart" phones, nor wants to use them in their visits to museums (often an oasis from the incessant demands of all the screens in our lives.)

I've heard a digital designer enthusiastically describe the promise of QR codes as "essentially infinite labels" He was sincere, but the notion made me cringe a little!

Heather said...

I am a huge fan of using QR codes in museums. Especially in museums that have gardens, or self-guided areas. A QR Code on a plant label can make a self-guided garden tour a more interactive and educational experience. Plus they are FREE to create and we all have budget restrictions.

It's true that not everyone has a smart phone (though if you are with a group there is a chance one of you has one. Using a QR code should enhances an experience, it should not replace labels, etc. As long as it is not the only method of providing information to the visitor it can be very useful and make a self-guided tour feel more engaging.

I think we are just scratching the surface of how we can use QR codes! Great post!

Kristen said...

We must be sharing a brain - I just wrote about these fun little buggers myself:

upsetgirlfriend said...

Hi Mary,

I agree, I think there's a lot of potential for QR codes in museums. At INTECH we have had a QR code trail for some time on trial, and the feedback from visitors has been unanimously positive. We also have a paper trail for visitors without smart phones, so there is the option to do either.

Eventually, we hope to have QR codes to take people to youtube videos, audio tracks etc to enhance their visit. E.g. we have an exhibit of a model engine, and the QR code could link to a youtube video of a 'real' engine in action.

My partner and I have been working a lot on this. Feel free to use our website to create QR codes for free (including batch jobs) and contact us if you would like any advice.