Interesting article from Wired on a technology called Hypertags from the UK. Starting this month, Londoners will be able to point their handphones or personal digital assistants (PDAs) at posters in cinemas and get back links to web pages. The idea is not a bad one, although I’m not sure how exciting that particular example is. A better use of the technology appears to have been last year’s demo at the Tate Modern museum in London where visitors could download snippets of information about the exhibits as they looked at them. The smart tags can be attached to anything — advertising panels, billboards or walls — and customers wielding gadgets equipped with infra-red or Bluetooth can download a small program to utilize the service.
Hypertag promise improvements such as visual recognition, where users point their phone at a magazine or newspaper article and be linked to a Web page. TV viewers could point their phones at a television program, they say, and access related Web pages. Hmmm. I like the idea in general, in that it’s theoretically less intrusive than the usual sort of phone pitching-at-you-where-you-are thing, but a) all this big content stuff depends on the phone becoming a virtual Internet browser and b) I feel they may be missing the bigger opportunity here. Surely this kind of thing should be used in shops where you can glean more information about what you’re about to buy by pointing your device at it — whether it’s cabbages or a DVD burner — and making the best use of the phone’s selling points: its mobility, its size, its connection to instant data. Who wants to visit the movie homepage when you’re in the cinema foyer? Or am I missing something?