Japanese ad platform offers 'simpler, better' QR code alternative

| 12 February 13

One of Japan's largest ad agencies will soon launch a new ad platform that mixes image recognition software with GPS and time data from smartphones to link consumers with product information.

The new system from Tokyo-based Hakuhodo, which launches Feb. 18, is based around a mobile app that consumers use to take pictures of ads or commercials. The app uses image-matching technology with an online database of ads to send relevant offers or data back to the user.

The Kokoku Plus app also records a GPS location and time stamp for each picture, so the information sent by advertisers can be varied based on where and when an ad is encountered. The app requires no registration or personal information from users to operate. Kokoku is the Japanese word for advertisement.

"This is the next step from barcodes and links in advertisements," said Hakuhodo spokeswoman Yukiko Ono. She said the company hopes to expand the platform abroad eventually, but has no solid plans to do so yet.

A replacement for QR

QR, or 'quick response' codes are common in Japan, often appearing in the corner of magazine and street ads. Hakuhodo hopes to replace the boxy two-dimensional barcodes, which users must carefully scan in using reader software, with the ads themselves.

Despite widespread scorn, QR codes are apparently steadily gaining popularity outside of Japan as well -- comScore said last year that QR code use over the summer months doubled from 2011.

The new platform uses image recognition software called 'Gaziru' from Japanese electronics giant NEC. The company built the software to solve the complex problem of recognizing images of real-world objects regardless of the angle from which they are photographed, of which identifying ads is a small subset.

The initial launch of Kokoku Plus will include ads and commercials from major Japanese advertisers including Daihatsu, Hitachi, and Suntory.

The app will also take user motions as commands. For example, flicking a phone at an advertisement after it has been identified by the software will bring up more information about its products, while shaking it downwards will download related coupons.


Israel Shield said: Does it work on one platform as QR Codes do? Is there any tag that would allow users to know an image can be scanned? Can anyone create a "Gaziru"(MVS)?How is it read or scanned?I think people have to give the "Kill QR Codes" a rest. QR Codes are quick and easy and they work one one platform and everyone knows what they are. According to the numbers of QR Codes generated and at the rate they are being scanned I am always humored when someone announces they are dying. At least wait till the numbers dip under 100% yearly rise.The love child between QR Codes and image recognition already exists as Visual QR Codes. (www.visualead.com) They keep the simple scanning technology while getting rid of the code but leaving an indication that an image or design is ready for engagement.

Roger Smolski said: It is not going to replace QR Codes any time soon.Firstly, everyone in Japan has a QR Code scanner on their mobile already.Secondly, the vast majority of Japan's QR Codes are not on brand ads but are generated by small businesses for display in store or on street furniture http://2d-code.co.uk/tokyo-qr-...Thirdly, QR Codes can be generated by anyone, at any time and for FREE.Mobile Visual Search (MVS) is a long way from competing with QR Codes. Maybe when MVS is open source and also free to use....