I’ve seen strange images like this now and then on the Web, but never paid much attention until I started reading about Google Places.
The image is actually a type of barcode. Just like the more familiar barcodes, only it contains more information. According to Wikipedia, These barcodes can be read and interpreted by QR scanners, mobiles phones with a camera, and smartphones. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/QR_Code for more.
This barcode format was invented in Japan back in 1994 and originally used to track parts in auto manufacturing. The use of these barcodes is common in Japan. QR codes have been adapted to quickly convey information to smartphone users. Barcode reader apps are available that use the phone’s camera to capture the image and analyze the encoded information.
To access the encoded information activate the barcode app, then aim your camera at the barcode and fill the viewer with it. My app automatically recognizes the image and transfers information to my smartphone. The information transferred may be a URL, links, geo coordinates, or text. The point of this process is convenience. You can download information without going to the trouble of typing it in.
The barcode itself consists of black modules arranged in a square pattern on white background. The white background is part of the barcode. The recent growth of smartphones means you’ll be seeing more and more of these barcodes.
Your imagination is the only limit on how this process is used. You could add a QR code to your website, a flyer for an event, or even a T-shirt ( see http://www.qrstuff.com/). Anyone with a smartphone and a barcode app will be able to ‘absorb’ the encoded information quickly and easily.
Using one of the many free online QR code generators, I created and added a QR code to the Hillsborough Extension’s map page. The barcode contains a link to Hillsborough’s Google Places listing. The user then has access to Hillsborough’s address, phone number, a map, hours of operation and more.
So is this just a strange image or an important trend? Only time will tell but I’m betting it will become an important trend.