QR codes are finally breaking into the mainstream media after several years quietly bubbling away in the background. I noticed that they’ve been used on several pages of Essential magazine this month, so readers can bridge the gap between print and online media (and see some nifty backstage video footage). I’ve also seen a number of ad campaigns using them, and an increase in the number used on business cards recently.

I’ve written several pieces over on It’s Open about QR codes, including a round-up of clever ways to use QR codes, and a QR code service for gravestones (for realz). I’m a big fan of the technology, and I’m helping Chocoholics to use it in their catalogue and for promotions, so customers can click straight from a paper catalogue to the online store without having to type in a long URL.

This all said, QR codes have their downsides. Firstly, they’re not the most attractive things.  Even if you jazz them up with a colour, which you can do on QRStuff.com, they’re still a little…ugly.

Secondly, while the use of QR codes are on the rise, the general public are still fairly oblivious to the technology. Those with smartphones are more likely to have seen, and used, QR codes but there are still many people out there that just assume they’re quirky little barcodes.

Now though, there’s an alternative to QR codes. Aurasma is a augmented reality scanning app that lets you scan logos, adverts and images. A video or animation will then play over the content you’re scanning. Basically, it makes whatever you’re reading come to life. You can scan an Evian logo to see their latest app, or scan a magazine ad to see a video from behind the scenes on a shoot.

Here’s a couple of examples:

GQ magazine

Various magazines and papers

It’s not as quick to load as the videos would suggest, but it’s still a very exciting technology. Content built into logos, adverts and content you’d print anyway? This could radically change how we read going forward. In fact, I can see high street shops like PC World using it to give a little introduction about the products, and supermarkets embedding video recipes into the label of a product. It would certainly cut the need for so much packaging.

The app itself lists all the ‘Super Anywhere’, logos and images that are scannable anywhere, so it’s very easy to waste lots of time  investigate the options. You can then reproduce your own, or scan the map for local ‘Happenings’.

Obviously, it does have some of the same downsides as QR codes. The technology is still new, people won’t immediately have the apps and when we do get the apps, we’ll start walking around in a confused daze, trying to scan anything and everything in the hope we’ll get an extra freebie.

But all in all, it’s a little bit like something from Back To The Future, which is no bad thing (much like the auto-lacing sneakers Nike are rumoured to be releasing soon). Now, where’s my hoverboard?

If you fancy trying it out, you can download the Aurasma app here for free.