Connecting the Physical World to the Digital World using Tags

I usually prefer researching information about products on my PC at home to delve through the details, comparisons and customer reviews. However, the problem with online buying is that you don't get to touch and feel the product like you do when you walk into a brick and mortar store. With mobile phones getting more capable than ever, many people have the ability to connect to the Internet via their mobile phones and research information on the go. I've tried doing this in the past while I'm browsing products in a store or flipping through a magazine. However, the challenge has always been trying to type long URLs via the tiny keyboards only to be presented with a page that was not obviously designed for a mobile experience.

Sometime ago, I explored QR codes and found that they could be exactly the solution I was looking for. QR codes have been popular in Japan but haven't caught on here very much. When I heard about the Microsoft Research project to develop High Capacity Color Barcodes (HCCB), I knew that this was going to make the user experience I dreamed about a reality: my ability to connect to information easily using my mobile phone.

One of the major differences between QR Codes and Microsoft Tag is that Microsoft tag employs different symbol shapes in geometric patterns and multiple colors to provide more information in less space.


Microsoft Tag was designed to work well with the limited cameras on most mobile phones. Advanced image-processing techniques decode even out-of-focus barcode images, which means Microsoft Tag works with the fixed-focus camera lenses common in most mobile devices.

To use Microsoft Tag, all I need to do is point my camera phone at the tag, take a picture and view the information associated with the tag. I can see this as a great way Retailers can make product information, comparisons, product reviews available to users on the go.

Here's what you can do to give it a whirl:

  1. Go to (using your mobile phone) to download the application for your mobile phone. You can also choose to send a link to your mobile device via:
  2. Go to to create a tag for your custom text, url or  vcard.

Here is an example of a Tag that I created to connect to my blog:

Also, if you are visiting NRF in New York next week, check it out at the Sonic Bar. You will be able to use your phone to connect to a live performance by the indie band WAXAPPLES that they made specifically for this year’s NRF.

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