Innovation That Matters

QR-like codes can be hand-drawn on any surface


The Graffiti Codes project aims to turn doodles into data-carrying signals that can be read by smartphones.

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While we’ve seen some creative uses of the QR code, as well as alternatives such as the sound-based Chirp, so far they have been limited to computer-generated images. Researchers at MIT’s Media Lab are hoping to create Graffiti Codes – turning hand-drawn paths on any surface into readable, data-carrying signals.

Rather than taking a photograph of the code with a QR-reading app, users simply move their phone over the path. The device’s accelerometer detects the pattern of the movement and is able to load the content that path is linked to. Because the method only reads the movement of the phone, the actual code itself can be drawn in any material, and on any surface. For example, a piece of graffiti could be encoded to direct users to information about its creation, or even enable oppressed communities to share information in secret.

According to Jeremy Rubin, one of the members of the Media Lab’s Viral Spaces group, the idea even has the potential to deliver relevant content to consumers’ smartphones when they perform a particular activity in a location, such as travelling up the stairs to the first floor of a store. Are there other uses for this digital-physical hybrid?

Spotted by: Murray Orange



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