I thought the photo below was particularly poignant to me.
This is a photo of a billboard that sits above the main exit of the Shibuya JR station. The patch of rectangles in the middle of the billboard is a QR code — essentially, a 2-D barcode.
This is poignant for a few reasons. This is the first time I’ve seen a major advertisement installation like this where one of the most prominent features of the advert is a machine-readable only data format. This has the feel of one of those “Animatrix” motifs where machines have gained a first-class citizenship alongside humans — just a little bit eerie to see a piece of very expensive advertising real estate occupied by a data format that my wetware cannot natively process. The QR code on the billboard actually encodes a URL for the band’s website. In the US, this would have to be a text URL. But, in Japan, every mobile phone — at least the ones used by the sub-40 demographic (the dominant population of Shibuya) — has built into it a QR barcode image recognition program. Since every Japanese mobile phone has a camera built into it, and they all have QR barcode software in it, it’s entirely reasonable to put data that is exclusively machine-readable on expensive advertising real estate. I tried the QR code out on my Japanese cell phone and it worked wonderfully.
This leads to the second reason why this is poignant. While the Japanese system may have many flaws, the massive uniformity of the mobile phone feature set has as one of its benefits the ability to drive pervasive new standards like the QR code into just about everything — from QR codes embedded in vending machines for coupon distribution, to QR codes embedded on the wrapper of a MacDonald’s cheeseburger to give rapid access to a URL for nutrition facts.