The QR code is breaking out of its box both physically and virtually as an increasing number of innovative new formats and uses are coming onto the scene. Take creative agency Set Japan, who have dreamed up some groovy artwork that incorporates the code itself. Its recent Frisk mints video a QR code is constructed by hand out of the tiny round mints themselves, demonstrating how codes can be displayed in 3-D.

Tokyo got its first QR code building in Tachikawa last December. Large black-and-white blocks displayed  in the building’s windows form a large code that’s linked to a Web site. That’s cool in itself, but the creators of the N Building concept, Teradadesign and Qosmo, have also integrated augmented reality to add yet another layer of information. With a special iPhone app, users can watch real-time tweets written by people inside the building, view information about the stores inside and download discount coupons.

On a smaller scale, Hankyu department store in Osaka is giving away cute Valentine’s Day chocolates wrapped in QR code paper to every customer who spends over ¥3,000 on chocolates. Once the code is scanned, it links to a site that plays a short animated message to the receiver. Women can chose between six different messages that will – in theory – chime with their feelings toward the guy getting the sweets.

For a trial period Fuji Television Network are using a QR code for its program “Manten Shoten.” At the end of each show a code will appear for a short 30-second burst during which viewers will scan it onto their phones, allowing them a chance to win a range of prizes. The scheme is only going to run for three weeks from February 13, but if successful in bolstering up flagging ratings, could become a regular feature.

In Kobe, a company called Hyogo Shoukasen Hyoshikigaisha (basically an outfit that sells ads on fire hydrants) have introduced a new scheme that utilizes the QR code for emergencies. The town now has 800 stickers displaying QR code which, when scanned, display information about the nearest fire hydrants and direct users to designated evacuation areas. Eventually information for tourists on sightseeing spots and guides to local restaurants will be included. Nagano Tourist Association is already using QR codes in its guide books. Once scanned, they link users to a Web site  that displays useful info about the neighborhood, based on GPS data gleaned from the user’s cell phone.

While QR codes have yet to take off overseas, we expect, at least for the foreseeable future, that they will be further integrated into the fabric of Japan’s city streets, be it for grand advertising/marketing campaigns or a smaller municipal projects designed for citizens and tourists.  The big question mark is whether emerging augmented-reality applications will someday make QR codes a thing of the past.

In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.