Tech Industry

Daqri connects QR codes to augmented reality

Augmented reality service overlays 3D images onto the real world through a smartphone, using the matrix barcodes as the anchor, for ads and commerce.

Daqri had one of the whizziest demos at the Launch conference. This company makes an augmented reality service that overlays 3D images onto the real world through a smartphone, using QR codes as the anchor. In other words, point your iPhone running the Daqri app at the right matrix barcode, and a floating 3D (possible moving) image will appear on the phone's screen. We've seen this effect in magazines and some ads already; Daqri is just trying to institutionalize the function.

While the presenter at the show said he wanted Daqri to become the "YouTube of augmented reality," I fear it's more likely the company will become the CueCat of the space. CueCat was a barcode scanner that consumers were supposed to use to get more information from advertisements in magazines. Barcodes ended up being important to commerce, but CueCat, which was supposed to become the funnel through which barcode advertising flowed, didn't make it.

There is, however, something very interesting happening with QR codes. While there are apps that read QR codes, like RedLaser (acquired by eBay), these little smartphone-readable printed tags could, and probably will, become much important. But only if reading QR codes becomes easier. If you have to open an app to read the code, I fear that their impact will be muted--it'd be like having to open your phone app whenever you wanted to receive a call. Ditto for SMS. There are some data types that bust through whatever you're doing on your phone and rise to the top of the UI regardless. QR code reading could be like that; as you navigate the world, your phone could pick up codes it sees to present information you might want, possibly using augmented reality, but not necessarily.

How to make this work without annoying users mightily or killing battery life I don't know. But tagging the physical world to connect it to the virtual is an opportunity for start-ups. Perhaps Daqri can pivot to become that, or perhaps as QR codes get more important its augmented reality connection service will become fundamental technology that gets wrapped into all new phones. The company is young enough and appears to have the technology chops to build a good service in this arena. I just don't want to see any company peg its future on building advertising or marketing services that require users to learn a new app. Advertising works when it goes to the consumer; the reverse is not so good.