Acoustic Barcodes – the audio QR Codes of the future

Acoustic BarcodesWe have all become used to seeing barcodes pretty much everywhere and QR codes making appearances on posters and flyers are increasingly common but soon you could be running your finger or smartphone over Acoustic Barcodes.

Chris Harrison and his team have been working on the new tags which consist of a pattern of notches cut in to an object that when swiped with a finger nail, or the edge of the smartphone, creates sounds that can then be converted by a phone or via a small microphone into producing a reaction much in the sameway as a binary ID or barcode works.

The best way of looking at Acoustic Barcodes is that they have the potential to become audio QR codes. The genius of the Acoustic Barcodes is their flexibility.

The team has already cut grooves into a toy boat and, using a pen instrumented with a mic, users can swipe over different parts of the ship, which causes the name of the location to be read out loud, for example “port side” or “engine room”. This can, of course, be transferred to engine parts, anatomocical models, etc for educational purposes or to aid those with impared vision or blindness.

More commercial uses have also been tested using clear acrylic tags which were attached to a large glass window (though ideally the window itself would be patterned). A microphone was attached to the inside of the glass and passersbys cwere able swipe the tags with their nails which prompted the system to read back a description of the item and the price.

The creators of Acoustic Barcodes explain: “A single, inexpensive contact microphone attached to a surface or object is used to capture the waveform. We present our method for decoding sounds into IDs, which handles variations in swipe velocity and other factors. Acoustic Barcodes could be used for information retrieval or to triggering interactive functions. They are passive, durable and inexpensive to produce. Further, they can be applied to a wide range of materials and objects, including plastic, wood, glass and stone. We conclude with several example applications that highlight the utility of our approach, and a user study that explores its feasibility.”

Acoustic Barcodes are currently just a concept at the moment, but the idea could very well make the jump to mainstream uses very soon.

Check out the video below for a run through of this cool idea.

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