QR Codes in exhibits

We’ve put our first QR Code up at the museum as an experiment. This seems like one way to deal with “nth level” information that might be interesting to some visitors but not to others. And it’s a way to make it easy for visitors to bookmark information for themselves.

Generating the QR Code isn’t hard. Google’s Chart api can do it. Basically, anything you put fullowing the “chl=” part of the URL here will generate a code: http://chart.apis.google.com/chart?cht=qr&chs=350×350&chl=http://think.random-stuff.org/

We’ve set aside a specific URL space for our codes to send people to. Each link will first take you to a short URL which will then redirect you to the actual URL relevant to the exhibit. The advantage of this is that we can also put up short, “human readable” links on the exhibits.  That will let us track how often the links are getting used and what mobile devices people are using. We’ve also put an explanatory page at the top level of that space.

There was a little debate about how much we should try to explain QR Codes on the exhibit itself. You can see what we wound up with in the detail photo. Basically we’ve decided that visitors will either (a) recognize the code and know what to do with it, (b) not recognize it and skip over it, or (c) ask someone. The “c” people can be given a printout of the explanatory page.

We’ve decided to introduce the codes slowly and in a way that hopefully doesn’t get in the way of people who don’t know what they are or don’t choose to use them.

Another question was whether we should format the linked pages in a phone-friendly format. The easy answer (because it requires no additional resources…) was not to do that. Phones are getting pretty good at reading full-blown web pages.

For further reading, here’s a March 2009 article titled QR codes in the museum – problems and opportunities with extended object labels

What QR Code app am I using? Right now on my iPhone 3G, I’ve got Barcodes. It’s got a huge number of one-star, negative comments but it works for me. The critical thing you need to know is that it only works on QR Codes, not regular barcodes, and at least with the 3G, you have to take the photo from about 18″ away and then use the app to zoom it to the right size.

Posted in Museum
2 comments on “QR Codes in exhibits
  1. Christopher says:

    I’ve been using RedLaser for reading actual barcodes, it uses the video camera so you don’t actually need to take a photo. I wonder if there are any QR apps that use video?

  2. Allan says:

    I have RedLaser, it works on the 3G as well, so it’s not relying just on video. I guess there’s a way to grab frames off the 3G camera without the user having to do anything.

    RedLaser is cool, but I’ve not ever found anything useful with it. Places like BJ’s seem to have private-label barcodes even on some national brand stuff.