Roy Healy’s first tattoo is not one that people often regret, like the name of a future ex or a quote in language that cannot be read. However, he is still worried about that. He asked the artist to write a QR code inside his wrist, pointing to a website he owned, and he didn’t believe it would scan.
During a two-hour session in September 2019, he mentally prepared himself to accept the tattoo “as a statement of arrogance in trying to combine technology and organic matter”.
To his delightful surprise, however, the code worked. Now, Healy, a 33-year-old software engineer in Cork, Ireland, can change the link it points to – personal blog, gambling rules, LinkedIn profile – to his liking.
Brian Greenberg, a 48-year-old Linux system administrator who has a QR code tattoo directed his own QR code tattoo that, at one point, directed the GIF of the word “soup”, wrote in an email. And over the years, the codes themselves have lost popularity among the public; Comscore, an analytics firm, found that US consumers’ use of QR codes to make purchases decreased between 2018 and 2020.
After that, Covid-19 attacked. In spring and summer, restaurants start displaying codes at outdoor dining tables instead of distributing menus. Schools use them for checkups at the beginning of the school day. Immunization sites are using them to log appointments. If you have been away from home during a pandemic, you have certainly seen or scanned one.
The appeal of QR codes is clear: They are touch-free and easy to scan. They have a straightforward, unmistakable logic. As Joe Waters, author of “QR Codes for Dummies,” said, “They work well.” In a time when things don’t work, that gadget is attractive.
The QR code (short for “quick response”) was invented in 1994 by Masahiro Hara, then a young engineer at a Japanese company called Denso Wave, a former business division of Denso. , an auto manufacturer. On a Zoom call and through an interpreter, he said that he did not predict that the market for using QR codes would grow globally (he initially created them to streamline production. car parts).
However, he is still very happy and proud to see a QR code “supporting the safety and security of our society” during the pandemic.
When asked to explain QR codes in a simple way, he said: “QR codes are for connecting people and information.”
Although QR codes have been pervasive continuously for payments and other services in Asia, in the US until recently they were seen as meaningless, even complicated. In 2015, TechCrunch called the QR code both a “joke” and an “annoying symbol of excessive engineering” in about 41 words. Scott Stratten, who wrote a book with his wife, Alison Stratten, on QR code negligence, says the codes are the “Jurassic Park” of marketing – something brands embrace because they can. , not necessarily because they should.
Various stores have hailed the recent popularity of QR codes as a “renaissance” or “comeback”. (Not the first time: In 2017, Wired hailed the “curious return of the dreadful QR code.”) But for many, they have never disappeared.
In particular, in China, QR codes are everywhere. More than 90% of mobile payments in China are made on WeChat and AliPay, relying on digital wallets and QR codes. But like many other technologies, in recent years their use has led to questions about privacy, surveillance and social control. For example, during the pandemic, the Chinese government used QR codes to track the health status of citizens.
In a 2017 blog post about the countless uses of them in China, Connie Chan, a venture capitalist, wrote that QR codes “may eventually have moved from a ‘joke’ to being applied. more widely used elsewhere “outside of Asia.
One reason QR codes are mocked in the US is because brands adopted them clumsily in the early 2010. Mr. Stratten said that he started seeing QR codes everywhere around the time. There, even in illogical locations such as roadside billboards (putting hands on wheels) and metro stations with no cellular service.
After that, things were even more random. In 2011, Quiet Ruins in Washington State began placing QR codes on graves. The company’s president, Jon Reece, said that although the challengers at first said, “You are not software people, you are the people,” they still sell them today. . QR codes are said to be “as ubiquitous as luxury black booties” at New York Fashion Week in 2011. But they still attract the majority of the tech world.
More widespread adoption followed the iPhone’s iOS 11 update in 2017, which allowed people to scan QR codes with their phone’s camera. (Before, they had to use a separate app.)
In education, many teachers have always found QR codes useful for sharing activities and connecting with their students. Josh Stock, 36, a 6th grade English teacher in Olathe, Kan., Said that he used QR codes to distribute digital school newspapers.
Randi Hipper, a 17-year-old in Brooklyn who posted the QR code under the @MissTeenCrypto handle, said: “For my generation, that is easy to understand. She is optimistic about their future. “I think this is just the beginning of a QR code,” she said. “QR codes will be everything.”
Sandy Marie Romo, 40, a teacher in El Paso who has been using QR codes for many years, said: “It’s been great to see that it’s finally accepted. “Should not have had such a pandemic.”