QR codes

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Postby Jon Allen » 01/19/11 04:32 PM

In the February issue of Genii, I have advertised using a couple of QR codes. For those that don't know, these are barcodes that allow you to go from paper media to electronic when you scan them. They are prevalent around the world and in a variety of businesses but I have never seen them used for magic. I know some magicians have them on their business cards to enable people to easily input their details on to their phone. The adverts not only allow people to read about the effects but also easily allow them to go online and see the effect being performed.

I have also used them on the cover of Double Back so that if you see it in a shop or at a convention, and the dealer either can't perform the trick or is to busy, it allows someone to scan the QR code to see an online video of the effect in seconds.

While I am sure there are many effects where the creator hopes you haven't seen it performed, I believe it is a very useful tool for marketing magic effects. I am wondering if any dealers or creators have thought about these QR codes for marketing purposes. I will certainly continue to do so with my products.

For anyone who has seen the QR advert, what do you think?
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 01/19/11 05:25 PM

For most of us in the US, you have to download software on your phone in order to scan them (assuming your phone has a scanner).
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Postby Jon Allen » 01/19/11 07:46 PM

Richard, many phones come with a scanner app that will read it but I don't know about needing any other special software to read them. It simply reads the code and, if it's a link to a wesbite, the URL will either be displayed for you to connect to or it will connect automatically. Someone I showed the code to scanned it with their iphone and it connected to the link in about 2 seconds.

If your phone doesn't have a scanner, it's easy to get one. There are a few but the best I've found is 'i-nigma'. While the iphone scanner requires you to line up the barcode fairly precisely, i-nigma can even be slightly out of focus and it will work.
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Postby Jeff Haas » 01/20/11 03:42 AM

Richard's right, for US smartphones, you have to go to your app store and download a barcode or QR code reader in order to scan these.

There are readers for the iPhone, Android and Blackberry handsets. It's a format that's just starting to take off here.
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Postby Jon Allen » 01/20/11 11:59 AM

i-nigma should be free; it is over here. There are others as well that are free to download.

At least this format is beginning to take off over in the USA. Enough magicians have iphones and other smartphones that adding the codes to text, products and adverts makes them worthwhile.
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Postby Lou Serrano » 01/20/11 03:19 PM

Jon,

I had not heard of this before your post. I think it can be a wonderful tool for marketing purposes. I will look into it. Thank you for sharing.

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Postby John LeBlanc » 01/20/11 03:29 PM

Anyone remember this, the forerunner of QR codes? (I still have a couple of these.)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CueCat
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Postby Jon Allen » 01/20/11 04:49 PM

Generating the codes is easy as well. The best place I have found is at www.qrstuff.com where you can generate them for free or, if you want to do more with them, or create hi-res codes, pay a small fee for daily, monthly or yearly use. For most printed matter and one-offs, you can do it all for free. You'll see just what sort of marketing avenues it opens up when you see what sort of codes you can generate...

Lou, I think you'll have a field day!
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Postby James Laudermilk » 01/21/11 02:40 PM

I use it for my Android App and Cell Phone enabled site.

http://www.androidzoom.com/android_appl ... nload.html
I am putting it on my website soon also.

It's very handy!
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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 01/21/11 02:43 PM

Interesting place to do graffiti or hacking.

On the Magic side, if the code/images for things can be very close one could use a Frixion or similar to have the linked images change when the code changes. ;)
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Postby James Laudermilk » 01/21/11 10:53 PM

Wow, I have certifications in CompTIA A+ and Security+ and working on my B.S. in CIS Network Security and you still lost me on that one! Ha..
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Postby Joe Pecore » 01/21/11 10:59 PM

I only have a BS in CS but I'm guessing Jonathan is talking about using one those erasable ink pens (http://www.pilotpen.us/products/erasableink/) to be able to change the QR code from one to another.

Cool idea!

(See the effect Burnin' Time in the January 2011 for an example effect with a Frixion pen)
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Postby mai-ling » 01/22/11 08:00 PM

my husband generated one for my website.
I might start using them for specific things
like where people can purchase my CDs, music,
merchandise and so forth.
you will remember my name
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Postby Jon Allen » 01/23/11 05:36 PM

Talking of purchasing merchandise, here's something very useful. You can geenrate QR codes to link directly to a Paypal payment. Simply give the item a title, an amount and add your Paypal address. The code generated then links to Paypal where everything is set up to pay the money.

I'm lecturing tomorrow and have codes set up for my higher priced items. Not everyone has the money with them to pay for things but if it's easy to use Paypal, they may decide to make the purchase.

The other innovation I'm using in the lecture is to have QR codes in my lecture notes. As well as reading the effect, they can scan to see me perform the basic effect. This will also jog their memory of seeing it during the lecture. I think that for no extra charge this is a very useful addition to the teaching/learning process.
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Postby mai-ling » 01/23/11 11:08 PM

I'm looking into generating a QR code included
with download cards with the actual code
where people can download my music (via
phone or computer)

i think it will be a very useful in helping people
research any product as well.

If you ever notice many food items have them,
i think it will help with nutrional values.
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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 01/24/11 09:29 AM

Joe Pecore wrote:... about using one those erasable ink pens (http://www.pilotpen.us/products/erasableink/) to be able to change the QR code from one to another...


Thanks Joe. These patterns are not directly human interpretable by casual inspection and seem almost identical to people, yet code to distinct numbers. I don't think they would directly serve us for marking cards and using a cell phone app as a reader - but I do feel we could go a step in that direction to use the app to "interpret" the codes to good effect.

Since we can't really tell one code from another, why not let an innocent app detect a change (by way of the Frixion+heat for an isolated change) or get similar but sneaky app to miscode some props and use this less than innocent app to display the associated objects? :D

In the same way that all playing cards look the same from the back, all codes look the same when seen by people, yet not by apps. I see much room for exploration there between the thing, its coding and the app which displays a picture of "a thing" based on the coding it reads.

Enjoy, this looks promising for everything from card changes that occur almost visibly when seen through a phone app most discreet use in mentalism.

Jon
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Postby Joe Pecore » 01/24/11 10:22 AM

They also make for great marked cards http://2d-code.co.uk/qr-code-marked-cards/ : )
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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 01/24/11 11:03 AM

Kudos to Barry of Barry and Stuart. The New York Times Magazine cover item linked on that page was also interesting. Check out the video of how they made the cover using balloons in the studio.

I can imagine the next generation of number grid puzzles where you fill in squares to match the clues and the full solution to the puzzle is the item linked. Can also see these used as graffiti for ARG.

Has anyone made images up from different codes based on average density (think of those images made up of lots of pictures) ?

Ah well, another layer of distraction and visual clutter. Let's hope we don't use these instead of MSDS sheets or expect folks to learn how to read the codes themselves as a form of literacy.
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Postby Gordon Meyer » 01/24/11 05:33 PM

That is a clever idea, Jonathan, and I hope someone figures it out. Unfortunately, changing even a single character of the contents causes radical differences in the barcode. It will take some clever manipulation to create a barcode that remains valid after you've erased or added spot or two. Who's up to the challenge?
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Postby Tom Stone » 01/24/11 06:58 PM

Gordon Meyer wrote:Unfortunately, changing even a single character of the contents causes radical differences in the barcode. It will take some clever manipulation to create a barcode that remains valid after you've erased or added spot or two. Who's up to the challenge?


Still, even with a radical difference, I guess that the difference is difficult to see - one bar code looks like any bar code. So, perhaps a more practical and less messy solution can be found.

For example, begin by showing a card with a bar code on.
-"Let's put it a side for safe-keeping for now. We'll return to it later." and put it in a Himber Wallet, where another bar code card is hidden.
A 2-way out effect can now be done. A switch might be considered unlikely, since you actually showed the bar code in the beginning.

A multiple out effect could probably be constructed along the same lines.

The "Out to Lunch" method also comes to mind.
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 01/24/11 07:54 PM

Tom, is it possible to have the rubber band laterally divide the barcode rather than simply having it on one side or the other of the rubber band? That could be interesting!
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Postby Tom Stone » 01/25/11 10:44 AM

I've got no idea how the barcodes are generated. But perhaps it is possible to come up with some software that can suggest how to name two URLs so that they will generate two very similar barcodes when processed.

Another idea, based on the Dai Vernon idea on how to transform a Club to a Spade at will: One card with a barcode on has a few die cuts in it. When placed on a white surface, it looks like barcode A. When separated slightly from the backing surface, the shadow seen through the holes will transform it to barcode B.

Another idea: Perhaps the WOW gimmick can be adapted?
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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 01/25/11 11:12 AM

Folks,

Go here: http://zxing.appspot.com/generator/

Set for Text and barcode size Small then type in a few text strings like card names. ;)

For example here is the queen of clubs: http://chart.apis.google.com/chart?cht= ... n+of+clubs
Which at a glance is not so distinct from 'Wavy Lines': http://chart.apis.google.com/chart?cht= ... Wavy+Lines :D

-J
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Postby Jon Allen » 01/25/11 02:36 PM

These really are useful for marketing purposes as well! LOL.

Richard, you can't have a rubber band going across the QR code. It requires all the squares to read the code. If you have a lot of information (a Paypal payment) the generated code willl have lots of small squares. If you have very little information (7S) the QR code will not have many squares.

You have to ask what you want your QR code to link to. If it's just text, the effect isn't that great. It would be much easier and stronger to have the words written on cards and have one word change to another.

What's great about these codes is that they can take you from paper media to electronic on one go. Far better to employ video links than words.

Having said that, I do think there could be something in this idea. Think of one of the cards here:

http://qrcode.kaywa.com/img.php?s=8&d=A%20of%20S%0D%0A10%20of%20C%0D%0A4%20of%20D%0D%0AQ%20of%20S%0D%0A7%20of%20H

Now scan this:
http://qrcode.kaywa.com/img.php?s=8&d=A%20of%20S%0D%0A%0D%0A4%20of%20D%0D%0AQ%20of%20S%0D%0A7%20of%20H

Working the odds, this must have worked with a few people.

You cannot generate a picture but you could link to a webpage with pictures on.
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Postby Joe Pecore » 01/25/11 02:44 PM

I thought QR Codes had error correction capability built it and that data can be read even if the symbol is partially dirty or damaged. I'm thinking a scanner still might be able to read it if the rubber band was thin enough.
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Postby James Laudermilk » 01/27/11 11:46 AM

Awesome! Love it!
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Postby Jon Allen » 01/28/11 04:15 AM

Joe, with a thin enough rubber band, the OTL principle will be harder to employ. It will also look strange to people that you have placed something over the qr code.

To see how similar the codes can be I generated 'Diamond' and 'Diamonds' and the code was totally different so I don't think the OTL principle will work unless the whole code changes.

As this is the Marketing and Business section, I'm still interested to hear people's views of the advert or having these codes on magic products. In my lecture on Monday, I received very positive feedback about having them in my lecture notes to show the routines.
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Postby Gordon Meyer » 02/01/11 02:50 AM

Jon, no fair derailing this discussion with actual facts. :) Let's continue to brainstorm techniques in a vacuum, it's way for fun.
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Postby David D. C. » 02/01/11 06:58 PM

Jon, you are correct.

The reason for QR codes is that it can be photographed with even a crappy cameraphone and still contain information, like a web address, without typing. That describes the new culture of almost everyone having some sort of digital recording device at any given time. And they can be quickly created.

SO instead of a business card, you can have a QR code you can keep on you. If someone wants your info, tell them to take a picture via their cellphone and send it via text message to a small number, and have it reply back to the cell phone via text message with your contact info ready to install on their cellphone. (This eliminates the need for a specific reader application.)

If they have a reader app, like on a iPhone or Android, the same QR code can link to your website with a button to send contact info to a phone (as well as any other info or media about you)

All without having to hand a losable business card and being able to track how many people respond to a code. And you don't have to awkwardly input anything into a iPhone in an awkward setting; just snap and go.

But that's just one way to distribute (and collect) information via QR codes.

I can imagine how positive feedback must be on the lecture notes. I can envision QR codes as quick ways to look video accompaniments to text lecture notes, or other information. But also imagine demoing a trick at a lecture and you know several people want to purchase its secret right there and then? Well, instruct them right there to take out their camera and "shoot and send" a QR code to either get them a link to the secret that they can now purchase online, or send them to a special webpage for the lecture notes. That way, you getting sales right at the moment of impulse. (Or just showing off how geeky you are.) And note, you've eliminated packaging and printing, just selling/giving the "notes" directly like some of the On Demand streaming or downloadable magic products that have popped up.

But like selling downloadable videos, I believe the trick is to acclimate people to use the technology in the least awkward way. (Or just keep babbling until a really good idea comes into focus).

[Ya, I've worked with these codes before.]
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Postby Ian Kendall » 02/02/11 06:58 AM

There's one thing that seems strange - do your codes go to a site that is smartphone compatible? iPhones cannot display Flash, so if you have FLV video on your demo it won't show up. If you have a full web version, how do you get the code into your PC? Holding a card up to a webcam seems clumsy.

I have a CR code on the back of my business card that links to a phone formatted web page. It looks pants on a full screen browser, but that's not the intended use. It's so someone can scan the card and get right to my contact details.

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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 02/02/11 09:42 AM

David D. C. wrote:...I believe the trick is to acclimate people to use the technology in the least awkward way. ...


Many already are. The tough part is to remember that magicians are way behind on this stuff. Try using the QR codes as design elements and a secondary layer of content rather than primary. IE clever tee shirts are already yesterday's disposables - try imbedding them into the decor of your props. ;)

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