Are QR Codes Useless?

Quick Response codes are invading our world, and like any poorly thought out technological invader they’ll be defeated very quickly. QR codes are those square barcodes you’ve been seeing in the corners of posters, or on artworks which desperately want to think they’re trendy, and they’re the most recent technology to be obsolete before it’s even finished. Imagine someone took The Artist, the silent black-and-white movie, and made a 3D version: a bizarre monochrome attempt to be cool wasting of everyone’s time and technology.

It’s very simple. If your latest breakthrough for smartphones was invented sixty years ago, you suck. And should probably be restrained before you start burning iPhones for smoke signalling or sketching crude charcoal warning signs.

The first warning sign is the targeting of human customers by painting large, striking elements which humans can’t understand. When you start doing things like that, forcing people to use “human” as a prefix more than once in a sentence, you may be losing touch with reality. Technology is meant to serve humanity, not the other way round. Instead of seeing a poster and knowing what it’s talking about we’re encouraged to take out our phone, start an app, scan the code, then wait for a while until the internet connection tells us what the code is. Answer: it’s always a pretty badly made website with less text than would fit on the poster, and if it isn’t a membership form for the Pointless Wasting of Time Society then it should be (this society almost certainly doesn’t exist, but don’t let that stop you looking for it).

Smartphones can already read some text, and I don’t have the exact technological predictions in front of me, but they’re about twenty minutes away from reading all text. They’re especially good at recognising clear mass-produced text specifically designed by advertisers to be easily read. Modern smartphones can read street layouts and the stars in the sky – devoting square meters of dots to them instead of us is like trying to sell a Nigerian fortune to someone’s dog: stupid, and you’re insulting both parties.

QR codes on adverts are useless because they take you to the official website, and you already know they’re going to say “THIS PRODUCT IS THE BEST EVER!”. When you’re checking out a product online, the official site is the last place you check. Making people spend time going from one advert to another smaller advert isn’t a useful service, it’s an intelligence test, one the people going to your site have failed. Augmented Reality, with computers adding extra layers of information to the real world, is going to be amazing. Adding useless extra layers of information to the real world is the exact opposite.

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