Like barcodes, but more triangular and colourful.
Microsoft chose the aftermath of CES to launch slightly less hyped product debut than that of Windows 7 Beta, Microsoft Tag Beta – which it dubs a “colorful (sic) leap forward in mobile barcode technology.” From a technical stance at least, Tag might just be of more interest to some of you reading this than a preview version of Microsoft’s latest OS.
Underpinned by what Microsoft dubs High Capacity Color (sic) Barcodes (HCCBs), Tag is, at base, a fairly simple system allowing a printed image to be translated by a camera phone to a URL. Microsoft’s Tag format uses a system of coloured triangles, enabling larger amounts of data to be stored in the same space as black and white would facilitate.
Microsoft has also been smart enough to realise that, in order for its Tag system to be of any use, it needs to work even if the camera taking the photo of the Tag is rubbish. That, let’s face it, being the case in the majority of phones. Some clever error correction algorithms ensure than even damaged tags may well still be readable, which is pretty neat. Microsoft also reckons that the small 5/8in square size of its Tags make them better suited to the environments they’re proposed for use in.
Interestingly, having had a play with the backend on the Tag Beta, Microsoft doesn’t seem to be generating tags using any sort of algorithm. Rather, at creation the Tag image is associated to a Live account and can then have its associated web address changed by the Tag ‘owner’ with Microsoft’s servers acting as a router between Tag and destination URL.
Being mobile-centric the applications are, admittedly fairly limited. While printing a Tag onto a business card allowing quick forwarding to a website containing more information than can fit on a small piece of card sounds pretty cool, there’s only so much browsing anyone wants to do on a phone.
Kudos to Microsoft, though, for supporting a huge range of devices, including all Windows Mobile 5 and 6 phones, the BlackBerry Bold and 81xx, 83xx series devices, Apple’s iPhone, J2ME enabled handsets and Symbian S60 phones.
Curious? Why not try out Microsoft Tag Beta on the thumbnail image above and see where it takes you.