Gadget Guy: Taking The Question Mark Out Of QR Codes

By Steve Van DinterSpecial To Channel 3000

When was that last time you ever really looked at a barcode, or thought twice about one?

We pretty much take them for granted. But now there's a new kid in town and it just might make your life a little easier.

But let's start with something familiar here -- the barcode. And we pay close attention to make sure it rings up the right product at the right price. It works great, but did you know that each line can represent just one number? There's actually a lot of vertical space being wasted.

Enter a new type of barcode that packs in a ton more data -- including letters and symbols -- all at a fraction of the size. Companies are using it to imprint product codes and other tracking in a much smaller space.

So you're thinking, "Great, what's in it for me," right?

You can actually create your own cool barcode, and chances are your cell phone, along with others, can actually read it.

They're call QR codes, or quick response, and they have been huge in Japan and Europe.

A QR code connects you to the information contained in them. Scanning one could have you call a store, access a secret coupon, visit a Web site, add a person as a contact, send them an email -- the possibilities are endless.

So how does it work?

If you have an iPhone, head to your app store and look for a free reader.

If you have a BlackBerry with a camera you're also in luck. Just head on over to BlackBerry App World and look for one of these readers, or download BlackBerry Messenger 5.0 and there's a QR reader bundled in.

Simply launch BlackBerry Messenger and click on "scan a group barcode" and you're set.

A grocery-store-like beep tells you the code has been scanned and then you're off.

Some people are using the code on their business cards to allow people to scan in all their contact information instantly. In other countries, people are going further and printing these on their shirts with hidden messages, links to their Facebook pages and even phone numbers.

It's free to make a code of your own. Just Google "QR code generator" and click on the type of code you want (from URL to e-mail, to SMS, etc) and then click "create." After that you can resize it and put it anywhere.

Getting a reader for your phone is pretty simple. I recommend or again Googling your phone's model and "QR code reader." The possibilities are truly endless. I guarantee you'll have some fun playing around.

Here's a fun site for even more on what you can do with QR codes:

Once you have a reader, here's a sample code to get you started:

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