Monday, August 22, 2011

Come as QR

You’ve probably seen them somewhere, bizarre blocks of pixels that appear something between Conway’s Life and a Rorschach ink blot. These QR Codes actually encapsulate small bits of data encoded into their zebraic patterns of white and black. A two-dimensional barcode. While originally created in Japan — isn't everything these days? — to manage part numbers in factories, QR codes are now used for all kinds of things. The one here contains a URL link to this blog. Not strictly the most useful of applications since you are presumably already here...

The Japanese have been scanning and using these things with their futuristic cell phones for years, but then Japanese cell phones have always been a little ahead of the curve. I still remember nights spent watching Serial Experiments Lain and thinking how out-of-this-world text-messaging seemed. Good ol’ Japan.

But now that the smart phone has become nearly as ubiquitous as the cellphone itself, the potential practicality of QR codes is hard to ignore. Print advertisements are taking advantage of its ability to link to websites and products, and the recently released Little Big Planet 2 can contain data for entire player-made levels in that pixel-parqueted patch.

But the QR code could hold great potential for tabletop gaming, too. Sure, there’s the obvious uses. Codes could link to the publisher website, to up-to-date errata documents, or even to printable character sheets. But take it a step further. Table-side apps to handle character sheets and dice rolls have become regular guests at gaming groups. But what if one of these apps could not only hold an entire character sheet, but could scan another player’s? A quick wave of the iPhone and a Game Master could have up-to-date data on the entire party. While browsing the latest Monster Manual, when that Game Master sees a beastie they like, zip, a quick scan and all the essential stats are imported. Players could perform complicate dice rolls and calculations by scanning a specific location on the character sheet.

As these things tend to be, it’d be an obscure novelty at first. But in the future, we could really see true integrative gaming, with the old and the new shaking barcoded hands. Those QR codes kind of look like cool monsters anyway, right?

If you’re looking for a QR reader on your iPhone or iPod Touch, I recommend I-nigma. It’s the software that’s been featured on countless Japanese cellphones for years, and it shows they've had the practice. Of five apps I installed, it had the quickest response when presented a QR code, as well as a great set of sharing features. Tweet it, Facebook it, even recreate any code you've scanned for others to scan right off your device. If you prefer a Swiss army knife approach, RedLaser is a decent scanner of all kinds of barcodes and automatically compares prices online. Both are free.

1 comment:

  1. Ninja Vampire, Very cool concept and reviews
    The work is very versatile, with so many concentrations intermingling
    Ninja Gear