Encoding the world

Israeli start-up Visualead plans to take QR codes that are really designed by machines, and make them human.

codes qr (photo credit: © DR)
codes qr
(photo credit: © DR)
Over the past couple of years, QR codes – those little boxes of black and white squares that appear in newspapers and print ads – have become an easy way for companies or advertisers to draw traffic to a website without visitors having to enter its address.
You simply point your smartphone at the box and let technology do the rest.
While practical, the QR code isn’t always visually appealing, and it tends to stand out from an image rather than being a part of it. But the Israeli start-up Visualead (www.visualead.com) says their new technology allows a designer to create an image that is both attractive and effective.
Ari Fuld, community and content manager at Visualead, tells The Jerusalem Report that the goal of the company is “to take QR codes that are really designed by machines, and make them human. So instead of scanning the black and white QR code, you are going to scan a Facebook site, a Twitter sign or a restaurant logo.”
To simply cut and paste a QR code doesn’t work because the code is made so that QR code readers, usually a smartphone camera, can understand it; and each code is uniquely created to do a specific task, either bringing the user to a website or to show a short video commercial of a product. According to Fuld, Visualead has developed a number of algorithms that take into account complaints that people have been having with QR codes. “We merged the functionality of the QR codes with the creativity of the design, which we are sure will boost interaction,” he asserts.
Until now the main problem with a QR code has been the need for a white trim around the black and white squares that make up the actual code, causing it to stand out from the rest of the image.
But, by utilizing the Visualead algorithms, a designer can now use any background color he or she chooses. Visualead studies show that visual QR codes significantly increase user engagement, creating communicative, creative and effective visual calls-to-action.
“Our goal is to take every QR code in the world and turn it into a Visualead QR code. If you look at the Far East – China, Japan and South Korea – all these countries are using QR codes to make life easier for people.”
For example, a shopper could scan a QR code when entering a grocery store to see which items are on sale, or even a code on the item itself to see a short film on preparation recommendations.
Or the codes could even be put to more personal use, as in the United States, where some gravestones now carry a QR code, allowing visitors to the grave to view, via the QR code, a short movie about the person buried there.
Phoning for a cab the smart way
Calling a cab has never been so easy. Forget going outside in the rain and trying to stop one on the street.
Now all you need to do is to pick up a smartphone and click on the Get- Taxi app (www. gettaxi.com). The app will then automatically find your location and other landmarks in the area and dispatch a taxi to you. Once the ride has been confirmed, the driver’s photo and how many minutes away he is will be displayed on your screen. The app also features a payment option, so there is no need to even carry small change.
The app is already available for cab users across Israel, and in London and Moscow, and will soon pop up in New York – thanks to a recent round of funding that generated $20 million.
The company behind the app has also launched a new site allowing people in the cities where it operates to book cabs without needing to have a Get- Taxi account or even downloading the app, which is available for Android, iPhone and BlackBerry phones.
The new site allows anyone to book a ride by simply entering the journey’s details and a phone number. The improved site is also a step in the process of transforming the company from one with a focus on information into a booking platform.
One advantage of the new booking focused site is that small and medium businesses can now open a business account, by providing credit card details, to manage all their taxi rides, expenses and accounting.
More data for your dime
Determined to help people get the most Internet usage for their money, Guy Rosen and Roi Tiger have come up with an app to track how their smartphones are eating up their data plans. The two established Onavo (www.onavo.com) in 2010, and one year later launched their first app – the Onavo Extend.
The Onavo team claims that with the app’s compression technology and analytics, users can get five times more usage from their data plans, or, as Onavo puts it, “that’s up to 500 percent more time on your favorite apps, sharing photos, browsing the web, etc. without any more fees.”
While Onavo Extent makes the most of the user’s data, the Onavo Count app helps to keep track of the data usage, by showing how much data each app uses and how data intensive the app is, as well as how much is used browsing the web. The app even shows how much data allowance the user has saved and how much data is left each month, hence reducing the risk of having to pay hefty over-usage fines.