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QR (quick response) codes are an ingenious development from the Japanese company Denso-Wave - who I mention here both because they deserve credit and because I'm legally obligated to give it to them.
Imagine you're in a subway, and an add for a particularly cool item catches your eye. At the bottom of the add is a black and white image that looks something like this:
You hold up your camera phone, snap a shot of the image. Instantly, it's decoded and fed into your web browser, and voila, you're at the company's website, checking out a special deal on the very item you're salivating over.
QR codes began as a way to track auto parts but have now become almost ubiquitous in Japan. They appear on magazines, food, posters, business cards - on just about anything you as a consumer might want more information about.
The storage capacity for these little babies is pretty impressive too - in their usual size, you can encode over seven thousand numerals, or over four thousand alphanumeric characters, or almost three thousand byes (every byte is 8 bits, if you've forgotten your computer science classes).
And with the capacity to launch and redirect your web browser with the click of a button, it's become an effective marketing and information retrieval technique.
While QR codes haven't caught on yet here, mostly because North American phones are generally not yet equipped to handle them, you can guarantee that advertisers here have heard about them.
The QR invasion will begin shortly, you can be certain.
Oh yeah, and for the record, "QR code is trademarked by Denso Wave Inc."