Recently [mit41301] wondered about increasing the data capacity of QR codes, and was able to successfully triple the number of bits using color. He chose the new rectangular micro QR code (rMQR) standard which was adopted last year as ISO/IEC 23941:2022. This rectangular-shaped QR code is designed to be used on narrow spaces, with an aspect ratio similar to that of a traditional 1D bar code. There are quite a few variations of rMQR, but the largest can hold 361 bytes. The basic idea is to generate three different rMQR codes, coloring them as red, green, blue, and merging the result. Decoding is performed by separating the color image into its RGB components and then decoding the resulting three images.
To do these experiments, [mit41301] took advantage of readily available tools. Generating rMQR codes can be done with this Python module by [Takahiro Tomita], who also makes the generator available online. Or if you’re more comfortable with Go, check out this repository by [Ichinose Shogo]. As a proof-of-concept, [mit41301] takes the first 449 digits of pi, plus the decimal point, and splits them into three each 150 byte chunks. Then he uses the image manipulation program ImageJ, an open-source Java program developed at the National Institutes of Health, to implement the combination and deconstruction processes.
There might be a few pitfalls if you want to do this outside the laboratory, however. First of all, this standard is reasonably new, and after a brief search this author couldn’t find any decoder that would recognize rMQR codes, nor any software modules or libraries. Research into colorization of QR codes, known as HCC2D (High Capacity Colored 2-Dimensional) codes has been ongoing. One issue is that correcting for arbitrary chromatic abnormalities in a scanner’s lens requires a baseline color palette in the code, which eats up some of the newly-gained data capacity.
Nonetheless, we really do like this concept. Do you have any applications of QR codes in your projects where coloring could be helpful? Is anyone using (monochrome) rMQR codes and if so, how are you scanning them? Check out our overview of barcodes, their history, and their future, in this recent article.
Beep. We’ve come a long way since June 26, 1974 when the first bar code was scanned at a grocery store in Troy, Ohio. That legendary pack of Juicy Fruit proved that even the smallest of items could now carry numbers associated with inventory and price.
By now, we’re all too familiar with this sound as self-checkouts have become the norm. Whereas you yourself could at one time literally check out during the transaction, you must now be on your toes and play find the bar code on every item.
Featured in many sci-fi stories as a quicker, more efficient way to record and transfer information, barcodes are both extremely commonplace today, and still amazingly poorly understood by many. Originally designed as a way to allow for increased automation by allowing computer systems to scan a code with information about the item it labels, its potential as an information carrier is becoming ever more popular.
Without the tagging ability of barcodes (and their close cousin: RFID tags), much of today’s modern world would grind to a halt. The automated sorting and delivery systems for mail and parcels, entire inventory management systems, the tracing of critical avionics and rocketry components around the globe, as well as seemingly mundane but widely utilized rapid checkout at the supermarket, all depends on some variety of barcodes.
Join me on a trip through the past, present and future of the humble barcode.
Beep. You hear it every time you buy a product in a retail store. The checkout person slides your purchase over a scanner embedded in their checkout stand, or shoots it with a handheld scanner. The familiar series of bars and spaces on the label is digitized, decoded to digits, and then used as a query to a database of every product that particular store sells. It happens so often that we take it for granted. Modern barcodes have been around for 41 years now. The first product purchased with a barcode was a 10 pack of Juicy Fruit gum, scanned on June 26, 1974 at Marsh supermarket in Troy, Ohio. The code scanned that day was UPC-A, the same barcode used today on just about every retail product you can buy.
The history of the barcode is not as cut and dry as one would think. More than one group has been credited with inventing the technology. How does one encode data on a machine, store it on a physical media, then read it at some later date? Punch cards and paper tape have been doing that for centuries. The problem was storing that data without cutting holes in the carrier. The overall issue was common enough that efforts were launched in several different industries.
First off we must applaud the Eugene Makers for their prolific documentation of the project. There’s a day or two worth of fun reading/watching on that page so make sure you save the bookmark (and learn from their example!). Inside the mysterious waist-high enclosure there’s a hopper to store the energy-drink reservoir. As a can is dispensed its barcode is scanned to ensure this is an approved beverage. At this point the can is elevated through an iris in the case of the enclosure, al0ng with a theatrically timed puff of fog. The parts of the iris were printed on paper and used to cut out wooden pieces using a scroll saw. The fog blast is from an inverted duster can with a 3d printed nozzle that helps make it Bullduino controlled.
When done with your beverage the can can be placed back in the opening, where it is again scanned before going into the recycling bin. But as you can see in the clip after the break, trying to sneak a soda can into the machine will launch the empty right back at you!
Originally you could get you hands on a CueCat for free. It was meant to work like QR codes do now — you see a bar code, you scan it to get to a web address. It never really took off but you can still get your hands on one for about twelve clams. We’ve seen projects that clip a pin on the processor to disable to encryption. But [Damcave] didn’t want to mess with the hardware. Instead he connected the Arduino via the PS/2 connector and used software to translate the data. The encryption format has long been know so it was just a matter of translating the steps into an Arduino function.
Instead of building a $500 iPad into a cabinet [Gojimi] used the old hardware he had lying around to building this kitchen computer. He did buy a few items such as a used touchscreen and a bar code scanner but the 2 GHz computer was just collecting dust. It’s running Windows XP, talks to you like HAL or KITT, and scans the bar codes on food as you add it to the pantry or using it for meals. The lengthy video after the break covers all of the features, such as Weight Watcher’s calculations, food information, recipe book, unit converter, weather forecast, browser, and digital picture frame. It seems to have more features than the iPhone kitchen lookalike but it also looks dauntingly complicated. But we still want one.