Back in January 2006, in a discussion of Peter Morville’s Findability, we noted two innovative approaches to using the built-in digital cameras of mobile devices, like cell phones, to input URLs for locating web sites to retrieve information using offline visual tags. Specifically, we noted,
Shotcode and Semacode make mobile information seeking over the web work like scanning a bar code to determine the price of an item. They make offline media interactive. It is pure pull, unless you consider the offline advertising “pushy”. The metadata necessary for accessing relevant information is largely in the context, the embodied situation of the user. Consider the experience of walking down the sidewalk past a bus stop with large sign displays for a musical artist. You see the artist, you read the title to their new CD, pull out your mobile phone, and take a picture of a symbol on the sign to call up a rich media advertisement, or informational message, on the artist.
H&M has recently taken the technique to the next step in Europe. Impulse shoppers can use their cell phone to snap a picuture of a semocode associated with a product, pull up a catalogue and make the purchase by charging the item to their cell phone bill. The semacodes are used on posters and in magazine advertisements so the buyer does not need to provide information to the seller, in this case H&M.
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