Microsoft Tags – Find, Scan, Discover

Microsoft has something really innovative out there called Microsoft Tag. It’s basically like a barcode with some data on it. You could install the Microsoft Tag Reader application on almost any mobile phone, take a snapshot of a barcode, and it will quickly find the information about it. For example: There’s a movie poster, and you see a special-looking barcode where you can find more information. If you have already installed the application, you could just take a picture of the barcode, and depending on your data network, you could probably get to the official site of that movie fast. These barcodes are also useful in scenarios like at a bus stop to find the a schedule/route map, real estate listing where you could find more information on a property being sold, and a lot of others you could think of. 

Anyone could make a tag after you register with the site with your Live ID.

The technology behind the Microsoft Tag is called High Color Capacity Barcode (HCCB) invented by Microsoft Research. According to the information on the page, it’s much better than the other technologies like QRCode or Datamatrix code because Microsoft Tags can be smaller, can store 1byte of information in just 4 color symbols, among other neat things. It’s already been used on the latest Viva Piñata CD, and there’s even a MoMA exhibit that includes the Microsoft Tag. Microsoft does a great job of explaining this on their site.

Maybe you’ll be seeing a tag somewhere outside one day. Long Zheng has written up some pretty neat posts about it:

http://www.istartedsomething.com/20090108/microsoft-tag-microsofts-own-2d-barcode/

http://www.istartedsomething.com/20090109/hacking-microsoft-tags-hccb-works-monochrome-too/

There’s a lot of potentital for this technology. Hope to see it improve a lot more before it gets out of beta.

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4 thoughts on “Microsoft Tags – Find, Scan, Discover

  1. It\’s not a bad idea when the application fits its purpose and people are aware of it. Otherwise it will fall like all other bar codes, QR codes etc. As is though, it just appears a solution waiting for a problem that doesn\’t exist. When I\’m thinking about things I want to be capable of doing by a mobile device, it\’s things like receiving bar code tickets to say go to the cinema with and just have the screen of my mobile scanned, rather than having to print out tickets either at the cinema or at home prior to leaving. Same with tieing a payment via a bank account to a barcode to have scanned at a point of purchase.I could see something like this used by museums which use audioguides though.

  2. @Chris: So you\’re looking for a solution where instead of having to deal with physical tickets/money, you just want a special barcode system where they could scan it from your phone\’s screen so it\’d be all digital. That would be neat. It is already possible in the world, as Continental has had this barcode thing offered at IAH, and Japan does the digital currency thing too. Maybe some phone company/system will come up with it at some point. I could see Microsoft doing that. It might replace credit cards. You just have to worry about not letting your phone get lost/stolen.

  3. Maybe if Microsoft Tag lasts longer than Live Barcode did, I\’ll do some scavenger hunt kind of thing in Seattle. Just print out stickers of Microsoft Tags and put them up in the city, each tag will give a clue to another location etc.

  4. I actually did download the tag reader application to my mobile device and it\’s VERY fast at recognizing the tag, even with movement and not being in focus. Much better than a lot of the other bar code or QR code applications for mobile devices I have seen.

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