QR codes have gained popularity on the packaging of products as well as in advertising, allowing users to access the URL of a brand without laboriously typing the address. But they were never very aesthetically pleasing—their big black-and-white blocks just made everything look all the more impersonal. But a new QR-type technology, developed by Israeli startup Visualead, with a $5-10 million investment from Chinese e-commerce site Alibaba, could reinvent the technology and prepare it for a variety of future uses.
Dotless Visual Codes, which can easily be imprinted with imagery, branding or even animations, are designed to be particularly helpful in an era of global commerce brought on by companies like Alibaba—and the wave of knockoffs and frauds that can unfortunately come with it.
A somewhat goofy secret agent-themed promotional video for Visualead's Secure O2O Solutions, which include the Dotless Codes, enumerates some of the Dotless Code's eventual goals, including verifying products, linking devices and signing in, mobile ticketing, and social networking and identification.
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Just as they provide a "fingerprint" for products, they can do so for people as well, and O2O Solutions is marketing their product to companies, in part, based on the platform's security. The complexity of the labels allows Visualead to encode additional information in them that traditional QR codes cannot handle. This means that information is only available to those who have provided theirs in turn to a special app.
However, this security comes with a price. The new Visual Codes, unlike the standard ones that grace ads and packaging today, can't be scanned without downloading Alibaba Group’s Mobile Taobao application (or the Visualead app for Android or iOS in the US). This means that network effects will have a strong influence on the Dotless Codes' success—perhaps providing rewards for downloading the app and scanning could increase users' loyalty.
Then, and only then, would mobile OS developers consider including readers for the code as part of phones' basic functionality the way they have with conventional QR. However, the visual rewards alone seem good enough to intrigue and lure users. Only time will tell.