Augmented Reality Makes QR Codes Look so Black and White

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The QR code, once thought to be the latest and greatest development, has turned out not to be. While still widely used, it has proved itself difficult to operate for many consumers. You have to scan the code, then download an app, then get to the content…

By Ayesha Mathews-Wadhwa (Founder & Creative Director, PixInk)

You could call augmented reality the QR code’s sexy little sister. It’s super-intriguing and just plain cool. But like all new shiny things, is it here to last? In a world of constant developments and ever-evolving trends, one can never quite tell.

Wait… What happened with QR codes?

The QR code, once thought to be the latest and greatest development, has turned out not to be. While still widely used, it has proved itself difficult to operate for many consumers. You have to scan the code, then download an app, then get to the content… a lot of work for savvy mobile users who want things in a single swipe.

RadiumOne’s VP of mobile, Kamal Kaur, told Street Fight that the codes are too high-maintenance and are “fading” because the usage process is too involved – and some people still don’t quite understand them.

The majority of brands have moved on from QR codes, said Doug Chavez, VP of marketing at the firm. “There’s a lot of confusion in the marketplace. Twentysomethings get it. But if you’re dealing with someone who is the head of the household, he or she needs to get in and get something quick. Things needs to operate for utility value. I think that’s why SMS works so well. They know how to use it.”

It doesn’t really matter who knows or doesn’t know how to use them – they’re simply not visually enjoyable to most advertisers and consumers, which is why they’re going the way of the traditional Blackberry.

What about augmented reality?

The verdict is still out on it, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less interesting, especially to someone in the media, design or technology fields.

Hotwire’s director Matt Cross says it promised to be the next big thing since 2007, but it is only recently that the technology has “matured to the point of being useful to everyday PR.” He says it “could prove” to be a hit.

Some say it already is, offering an even greater opportunity to highlight creative.

Alex Myers, managing director at Manifest London, said that QR codes have very low levels of interaction and creative potential. “More and more, augmented reality will become a portal for content. If you want to add some extra content or a creative kick, then augmented reality apps are a quick and easy way to do it.”

That hasn’t stopped marketers and advertisers from embracing the technology, which creates a view of a real-world environment with augmented elements that can include sound, GPS data, graphics, or video.

It may be used by big brands such as Ford and Coca-Cola to create some knockout creative, but there are implications as well. Implications of the privacy kind. Check out Girls Around Me, an app that scans for nearby girls – and guys. The app doesn’t necessarily say if the people “spotted” are looking for dates. Not all apps are a bust.

Another factor that influences how well augmented reality takes off is if people will let the name dictate that it may be too complex and not bother.

Time will tell how well augmented reality takes off, but the tool has definitely replaced its sister, QR codes, as the latest “it girl.”

Photo credit: ik on Flickr.

About the guest blogger: Ayesha Mathews-Wadhwa is Founder and Creative Director of PixInk, a San Francisco-based digital design microagency serving a macro niche: businesses marketing to women, who drive over 80% of purchase decisions. She nurtures emerging brands and strengthens iconic ones through powerful design, insight and a deep understanding of the female consumer. PixInk’s microagency structure works extremely well for Apple and Facebook, among others. Follow her on Twitter at @ayeshamathews.

Women 2.0 readers: How do you use augmented reality and/or QR codes? Let us know in the comments!