Has Augmented Reality killed the QR Code?

by Quentin Aisbett

There’s been a lot of buzz surrounding QR Codes in recent years, with bloggers and marketing commentators touting each year as the ‘Year of the QR Code’. I heard that back in 2009 and subsequently each year after that.

The interest was driven by digital marketers (me in the past) and maintained by the early-adopters – but sadly for some, the practice just hasn’t kicked on.

Sure, there has been a steady increase in codes published: the newspapers are gradually using them and the real estate industry has finally caught on to the opportunities. But how many times have you scanned a QR Code?

Enter Augmented Reality technology and the relevant mobile applications. The technology is well and truly here in all of its guises. While Australia isn’t always the case, we have a number of innovative brands trialling the technology for varying purposes – but it may very well be the simple adaptation of QR Codes that kickstarts the use of AR. The difference lies in that you don’t have to scan the code: you can scan just about anything.

No longer do you have to find the right piece of real estate in your print collateral or advertising for the QR Code – use the whole page if you want. If you want a better explanation, check out a demo video from the guys at Aurasma.

Newspapers can now use images to bring more interactivity to the reading experience. The main sports story and associated image can only say so much, but imagine scanning the photo and it would show the highlight from the weekend’s match?

IKEA is one of the big corporations currently trialling AR within its own mobile/tablet shopping application. Customers simply hold their mobile/tablet over a page in the print catalogue to unlock additional content including videos, images and 3D modelling. I’m not usually one to spruik the Swedish giants, but check out their intro video.


There are already particular uses of AR in the tourism industry, but allow me to mention the most basic of opportunities. Imagine the Tourism Australia mobile/tablet application having AR functionality that allows visitors to hold their phone up to Federation Square to unlock a host of valuable information including history, coming public events, business details within Federation Square and an opportunity to tell the world where you are via social media. Somebody tell me if it’s already here.

I can’t help but think this is going to be a fantastic development for social golfers, who will be able to scan the green or the tee to find out critical lies, distance and more.

Beyond the basic scanning functionality and association with QR Codes, there will be an increased use of geo-triggered Augmented Reality without relying on the need to open up a specific app and scan. This has more scope for future use, but it will have to be carefully managed to ensure opt-in is required. The uses and opportunities for AR are phenomenal, so keep an eye on it.

QR Codes were good while they lasted, but with all emerging technologies (with limited development potential) they have a shelf life before they are superseded.Unfortunately, QR Codes never really got their time in the sun. Augmented Reality represents the future and while this particular adaptation still requires us all to bring out our smartphones and open an application, the benefits are more flexible and appealing.

The caveat for advertisers and publishers is still the same as it is with the use of QR Codes. Don’t discount the effort it takes for them to open their application and scan your image. To be more specific, don’t ask them to browse your non-optimised corporate website or send them promotional material –it has to be worth their effort.

To check out the worst uses of QR Codes see WTF QR Codes, they regularly compile a list. Add to it yourself.


by Quentin Aisbett

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