During Scrapbook Update’s coverage of CHA Summer 2011, Quick Response (QR) codes emerged as a hot trend in the marketing and sales arena. QR codes could be seen adorning everything from booth displays to business cards to product packaging, giving both retailers and consumers easy and fast access to company and product information.
Two companies at CHA – Stkr.it and AirArts – demonstrated that the same QR code technology has applications in scrapbooking and memory keeping, as well. The concept from both companies is simple, though their implementations vary slightly. Various smart phone apps and/or web interfaces are used to “attach” multimedia files (such as audio and photos) to a unique, pre-printed QR code on a small label that can then be adhered to any number of items, including cards and scrapbook pages.
Stkr.it’s QR code stickers are designed to be scanned by the user’s smart phone (free apps are available in both the iPhone and Android app stores) in order to record and “attach” a voice message to the sticker’s code. The same app can also be used to scan a previously recorded QR code sticker to play back the attached content, and Stkr.it’s online FAQ states that a web interface will soon be available for attaching voice messages without the need to use a smart phone at all, making Stkr.it enabled content available to anyone with an internet connection. Users can already retrieve content without a smart phone by entering the unique ten digit code printed at the bottom of each QR code label on the Stickr.it web site. Stkr.it also has plans to expand their multimedia hosting capabilities to include digital photos and video along with the ability to add pre-recorded content and to copy the same content to multiple QR code stickers in the near future – useful when making a large batch of similar items such as Christmas cards.
Stkr.it offers two different types of QR code stickers – original and scrapbook. Original stickers (MSRP $1.99 for a 3-pack or $5.49 for a 1o-pack) include instructions in case the recipient is not familiar with QR codes, while scrapbook stickers (MSRP $2.99 for a 3-pack or $7.99 for a 10-pack) are available in a range of colors to match users’ scrapbook pages. Both types of stickers are printed on acid and lignin free paper.
AirArts, winner of the CHA Summer 2011 Innovations Showcase, is introducing TalkingTag – its own version of QR code labels – to the scrapbooking community at large. TalkingTag has been distributed through Creative Memories since March 2011, and is now being made available to other retail outlets as well. TalkingTags QR codes are smart phone readable (free apps are available for both iPhone and Android platforms) as well as scannable via a webcam. They lack, however, the text code featured on Stkr.it labels that allows non smart phone and webcam users to access the content, and users must utilize a smart phone to attach content to a QR code.
The TalkingTags interface allows the same content to be copied to multiple QR codes, a great option for cardmakers who want to attach the same voice message to a large batch of greeting cards. The company also plans to release an option for users to purchase a custom QR code stamp that would allow them to add a code to each card or item in a batch without the need for a large number of stickers. The TalkingTags app also allows pre-recorded content to be attached to a code, giving users the option of recording a message “in the moment” even if they don’t have any stickers with them at the time.
TalkingTag stickers are less than half an inch tall and are available in a variety of themes (such as birthday cakes and flowers). They are also available in a number of formats such as fabric tags – perfect for attaching to quilts – and codes that can be printed on t-shirts or in photo books.
These photos taken at the TalkingTags booth at the CHA Summer 2011 show some of the possible uses of the codes. The printed codes in the photo book are larger than the current models as the size the tags need to be shrinks with advances in smart phone camera technology.
As with any emergent technology, there are concerns with QR code enabled content that still need to be addressed. Both Stkr.it and AirArts store multimedia files on their own private, proprietary servers, raising concerns about long-term availability of the content should either venture go out of business or suddenly stop offering the service. Both companies claim that the data on their servers does not expire and is guaranteed to be available forever. Longevity is also an issue in the face of rapidly changing technology. QR codes are a relatively new trend in both marketing and memory keeping, and it’s yet to be seen if this fad has any real staying power. If the technology falls out of favor five, ten, or even one year from now it’s possible that eventually the apps and interfaces used to store and retrieve content may no longer exist.
Security is also an issue as neither company password protects or otherwise restricts access to content stored under a QR code. Anyone with either the QR code or the URL that the code references can both access that content and distribute its location to others without the knowledge or consent of the original creator. Even though the URLs themselves are random-looking strings of letters and numbers that won’t easily be “guessed” by outside users (there are literally billions of combinations possible), the content is still unprotected and accessible by anyone who has or happens upon the URL.
Only time will tell if papercrafters will adopt QR code technology – currently hot in the marketing and sales arena – and give it any sort of long-term staying power.
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