Make a 'Bar Code' for Yourself with Microsoft Tag
You may remember a product from the now defunct Digital Convergence Corp. called CueCat from about ten years ago. It consisted of a cat-shaped bar code scanner and some software that would link the scanned bar code (called a cue) to digital content. The idea was that eventually any kind of printed material could have a cue in it and be linked to a web page. It was highly criticized and even named #1 worst invention of the 2000s by Gizmodo, and eventually the company went out of business. Obviously there is value to what they started though - consider the bar code scanning apps available for smart phones today. And now Microsoft is reviving the whole 'cue' idea with a new product called Microsoft Tag.
Microsoft Tag works like any bar code reader in that you take a picture of the tag with your phone's camera and then the software connects you to the appropriate content. Microsoft has its own tags though. Project marketing leader Marja Koopmans likens the tag to a "hyperlink in the physical world." Advertisers can put tags on anything they want, not just the products themselves. You could have tags on billboards, in magazine advertisements, flyers, etc. But it isn't just for advertisers - anyone can make a tag and put it on their business card or T-shirt for that matter. Imagine personals in the local paper that would just be a bunch of tags linking to Youtube videos of people. Think about seeing a 'For Sale' sign in front of a house with a tag on it that links you to a video of the inside. It's probably hard to imagine where this technology would lead if it really takes off. Though the project is still in its infancy, the Tag team (which currently consists of just four people) has already seen their product being used in the yellow pages in Italy and at tram stations in Amsterdam.
To use Tag you need a camera phone and you need to download the software. The software is widely supported, obviously it works with Windows Mobile devices, but also works with Blackberries, iPhones and even basic Java phones. You can get the software and even make your own tags at the Microsoft Tag site. It is free for now, no telling how long that will last...