Microsoft has joined the physical world connection/interactions space with its release of their High Capacity Color Barcode (HCCB) called Microsoft Tag, a new 2D Barcode technology developed by Microsoft research that competes with QR Code, Datamatrix and other 2D barcode technologies.

Comparing Microsoft Tag to QR Code:

Microsoft Tag uses colors and triangles vs. black and white and squares, and it support Tags that contain URLs, Free Text, vCard, and Dialer type. A time-to-live or time-frame can be associated with it the tag, which is useful for marketing campaigns.

I’m a big fan of the new kinds of interactions that are possible via visual and radio tags; related to this see my presentations (SlideShare), and related pages on my blog: Physical Interactions and Touch/NFC.

The Microsoft Tag Video (YouTube):

Creating and Managing Tags

Microsoft tag is an end-to-end solution: the Tags, the software on the handset, and the software on the web that allows you to create and manage and print your own tags; see below.

Creating a Tag (Click to enlarge):

Managing Tags (Click to enlarge):

This is the Tag I created of type URL to my blog:

Downloading Microsoft Tag

You can download the Microsoft Tag reader client directly to your phone: Android and PalmOS (coming soon), BlackBerry, Symbian S60, Windows Mobile, Sony Ericsson and other J2ME devices, by pointing your phone to gettag.mobi website.

Is there a need for a new Visual Tag?

Tags such as QR Codes are high capacity tags already:

(from Wikipedia)

  • Numeric only Max. 7,089 characters
  • Alphanumeric Max. 4,296 characters
  • Binary (8 bits) Max. 2,953 bytes
  • Kanji/Kana Max. 1,817 characters

But as @torgo Tweeted back:

“…But do we really need a new 2d barcode? What exactly is the problem with QR?”

And @adamcohenrose wrote:

“I thought QR codes had no licensing problems?”

I don’t buy “capacity” as the reason Microsoft introduced its own tag, but perhaps is because “they just can”, or maybe related to licensing; while QR Codes are considered open, QR Codes are patented, but the patent is not being enforced (at this moment). Another reason is that the color-based, triangle tags provide for better “fiducials”, allowing for faster alignment and scanning thus better experience; this I need to test to determine.

ceo

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15 thoughts on “Microsoft Joins the Physical World Connections and Interactions Space with Microsoft Tag

  • January 10, 2009 at 2:26 am
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    Who has enforcable patents for the use of any barcode?

    I took a quick look at the patents for reading barcodes for mobile phone cameras and didn’t find much. Can you tell me what I missed?

    Thanks in advance.

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  • January 10, 2009 at 1:14 pm
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    My first reaction when I read this was to somewhat agree with the “Microsoft is doing it because they can”. I think, however, it has the potential to take off for one simple reason – people with connect with the fact that it’s colorful. Once I started actually playing with it, however, I realized their might be more to the colors than simply playing to people. I’ve installed QR Code readers on my Blackberry Pearl before, and had limited success with reading QR Codes because, try as I might, I cannot get the darn thing to snap a clear picture up close. The Microsoft tag reader, however, probably because the shapes are predictable, had a much easier time interpreting the tags, even when the pictures were of my laptop screen. We’ll have to see what happens when the tag reader starts supporting other code formats, but, at least on my current phone, this might end up being a much smarter decision on Microsoft’s part than I initially considered.

  • January 10, 2009 at 1:40 pm
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    @Peter: There are some companies who are in the process of patenting this barcode-based interaction, one being Neomedia. They claim to have invented it (I don’ agree, and have their own 2D barcode technology.

    @Kristin: Yes, I agree that the reason may go beyond capacity and has to do with better “fiducials”, allowing for faster alignment, scanning and processing.

    ceo

  • January 11, 2009 at 10:03 am
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    That’s true that recognition is very impressive , tried it with a N95 and your icon so camera was really close and blurry, and it worked…

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  • January 12, 2009 at 8:57 am
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    Boring, there is no advantage in this over QR codes which are license free and not encumbered with any kind of microsoft tax.

    Cheers,
    Dean

  • January 12, 2009 at 3:49 pm
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    And they (MS) also have a free iPhone app (MS TagReader). Have to say, for me, on the iPhone, the MS Tag works a lot better than the QR Codes. With QR Codes and the Barcode iPhone app, it’s very hit-and-miss (mostly miss). With MS Tag, it could parse it each time, even very bad, skewed images taken from my screen.

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  • January 16, 2009 at 8:37 am
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    Zebra helps companies identify, http://www.printabarcode.com locate and track assets, transactions and people with on-demand specialty digital printing and automatic identification solutions in more than 100 countries around the world. More than 90 percent of Fortune 500 companies trust innovative and reliable Zebra printers, supplies, RFID products and software to increase productivity, improve quality, lower costs, and deliver better customer service.

  • February 5, 2009 at 1:51 pm
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    Did you know that zebra barcode labels do not have to be branded Zebra to work? There are many barcode labels that will work in Zebra barcode printers. Just look online and make sure you are using the correct core size and outer diameter that fits with your printer.

  • November 20, 2009 at 7:30 am
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    I totally agree with ‘Barcode Scanners’ – All labels will work in Zebra printers, they brand their labels and charge more for them to make you think that you have to get them from Zebra which is utter rubbish.

    Simon.

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