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Will Bokodes Give Barcodes the Boot?

By Neetal Parekh on July 29, 2009 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Three millimeters is about the size of an @ sign, and it's also the size of the optical tagging technology developed by researchers at MIT---a technology that could replace the everyday barcode and much more.  Bokodes refers to the light blur produced from an out-of-focus image, such as in a photograph.  Turns out that heck of a lot of information can be programmed in that haze.

The bokode system can allow angle-encoded information to be read by an ordinary camera or even cell phone.  And the little gadgets pack in a punch, being able to record far more information than a regular barcode.

What can this mean for small business?

Bokode technology could allow more comprehensive and informative product labeling.  Food products could be tagged with complete nutrition information, scannable by consumers for easy comparison and eliminating the need for printed labels.  User manuals could be coded in, to avoid the often-repeated scenario of losing the how-to guide to a new item.  Details on where and how items are made can be stored and viewed without having to open packaging.  Beyond souped-up barcode capabilities, the emerging technology could allow interesting interactions between users as well, such as identifying members of a meeting or instantaneously finding out results to a live poll in which participants had distinct bokodes.

Current protoypes feature a tiny LED-masked light source to emit the encoded information; however researchers are developing other ways to imprint the bokode stamp.  One idea is to use a reflective method, such as holograms used in credit cards--which would also be cost-effective.

What makes bokode technology useful to retailers is that it would not require infrared (laser) light to be read, but instead could be viewed through with any flash and refracting lens, such as an out-of-focus handheld camera or even a camera phone. 


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