Simon Says: QR codes are rubbish, use Google Goggles


You love Google.

It's one of those universal tools everyone has a soft spot for. I secretly imagine people who work at Yahoo use it when their boss isn't watching. Who couldn't adore a company who has an unofficial slogan "Don't be evil."

In April 2010 the search giant purchased "PlinkArt." PlinkArt was originally designed to identify works of art once you took a photo of it. The app was one of three winners of the Education/Reference category of the Google ADC2 (Android Developer Challenge 2). Google then purchased them and added the functionality to what we now know as "Google Goggles" - a visual search engine.

I've played with Google Goggles on multiple occasions and it's not perfect, but it's damn good. Sometimes I don't know the words for something I want to search for which makes it perfect. Additionally, I don't like QR codes. I am not saying they can't be beautiful, but nothing beats a real life image.

You can throw around the statistic that "the UK is the 7th largest consumer of QR codes in the world" but 100% of us use sight to look at the world in real-time. I can't name a single thing QR codes do that Google Goggles doesn't do better.

You can take a photo of a movie poster and in less than a minute (depending on your connection) be watching the trailer on YouTube... No matter how much you dress up a QR code it is never going to look as good as a movie poster. QR codes also ruin most design. I love a beautiful DVD boxset and have been turned off purchasing one because of a QR code being on the box.

We are so close to having the image recognition software that will identify 90% of consumer products, why should we live in the dark ages of QR?

Some advertisers have said to me that QR codes are a more accurate input method. They ensure you don't get the wrong information. But this sounds like a teenager defending the fact he purchased a PlayStation the week before the PlayStation 2 came out. They feel invested in the technology and blindly claim it to be much better than it is.

I am a Google Fan boy. And I'll openly admit that. But I am so in love with the company, I can see its faults. Google Goggles isn't perfect. It can't recognize trees or animals, but for consumer products and landmarks it's spot on 80% of the time (in my experience).

I would like to see advertisers embracing this new technology. Creating "take a photo" posters which take people to specific websites would be an amazing way to add real value to marketing campaigns.

Imagine if Harry Potter had 4 different movie posters. All of which took you to a different movie trailer... or if you could take a photo of a Ford Focus and it would take you to a page which would let you create your ideal car spec... or if you could take a photo of empty jars of food before you throw them away and have them get added to your shopping cart in the Tesco iPhone app... or (my personal favourite, but this one is a bit far fetched) taking a photo of a pair of shoes your friend is wearing and finding out where you can purchase them...

Limitless possibilities. If this doesn't get you excited I don't think we'll ever be friends.

I know there are alternatives with very similar functionality including Nokia point and find, kooaba & snaptell but all of their download numbers combined don't hold a candle to Google Goggles.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words and in the industry that lives on word of mouth marketing I think we all have a lot to think about as Google brings us closer to perfect image recognition.

Photo (cc) Antonio Manfredonio


QR codes and why they are a digital dodo

Just wrote a similar post about why QR codes are the dodo of the world

Gregory, couldn't have said

Gregory, couldn't have said it any better. Simon, you're quite right, QR codes are ugly and the process is clunky, while Goggles has so many possibilities. However, from an advertiser's point of view, Gregory is spot on - we can't control where that user is taken or even ensure that our product is there.

I'm sure that Google will be introducing a way  (if they haven't already) for us to buy their love and ensure our products are both there and take you through to a particular destination, but until this happens, QR codes are the best option.

I work for a music label and the thought of someone being able to use Goggles on one of our artists - in person (creepy thought) or a photo, their gig posters or CDs and being driven to more information (and retail links of course) is very exciting. At the moment we're just not there.

It's The Technology...

@Simon - I partially agree with you about Google Goggles. The strongest reason for using them is the beautiful user experience. I pointed my iPhone at a picture we've had in our sitting room for 10 years, in bad light, snapped it and voila! I finally knew who painted the thing, the title and, sadly, that there was no need to rush out for any extra insurance.

@Barri - interesting stat I heard from a band manager at an event recently. They put QR codes on their posters. In the UK, it was used 7 times, when they went on tour in Japan, it was used thousands of times.

In summary, there's still a massive adoption problem with QR codes. They're not native on major platforms, there's fiddling with apps and downloads. In London, at least, I most often see them on the tube. Underground. No signal. Duh.

If, and it's a big if, they were native in smartphone (or not-so-smartphone) camera apps, they might catch on. In the meantime, I think we'll see versions of Google Goggles appear that are more advertiser friendly and with more control.

For an early example, check out: Blippar

Google Googles "is a visual

Google Googles "is a visual search engine". So the results are in the control of Google, I can't even see that you can submit a photo of your object/poster and you certainly won't have control over the top result being your added content rather than a negative review of your product (unless you have a deal with Google). QR codes are specific and go to where the publisher wants them to go.

QR codes are also obvious. If you see one, you know(if you know what a QR code is otherwise you get interested) that you need to take a photo of it. This is why advertisers like them, along with all the hype they are creating, they make people go follow on further with the advert. Personally I think this is a stupid reason and it means they are over used. Often they are accompanied with a short URL that goes to the same location, but it's easier/faster to type the URL in.