ScanZoom, which allows camera phone users to scan barcodes to compare prices in stores and obtain other information and services, is now available. It will work with most camera phones, but there’s a catch: You have to pay $10 for the software, $10 for a special macro zoom lens, and another $5 or so to get it to you. A similar version if available for webcams.
I haven’t tried it out yet, but if I recall correctly a barcode reading pen was available a few years back — the C Pen, if I’m not mistaken, which turned out to be less of a success than its makers hoped for. The idea was for users to scan barcodes they found in magazines and then send the data to their computer, which would in turn, er, tell them about the product they’d just read about in the magazine. I might be getting this wrong, but a) I couldn’t find that many companies that had been loaded into the pen’s database for it to work and b) how many people are going to do this kind of thing for it to work?
ScanZoom could be different, in that the user doesn’t have to do that much. But clearly the need for a macro zoom lens on the camera phone is going to be an inhibitor (can you still use the phone with the lens on it?), as it the fact you’ve got to pay $20 to get started. Unless the service really does help you get good prices, rather than just throw more advertising at you and steer you to certain vendors, you might be wondering who the chump is.
Still, as infoSync World reported late last year, this kind of thing is common enough in Japan. And ScanBuy, the company behind ScanZoom, says it used the technology at a soccer game in Spain earlier this year to ID ticket holders. And they’re not shy in their claims: Their PR blurb says (PDF only)
Optical Intelligence enables camera equipped cell phones and other mobile devices with barcode-reading functionality. This technology will drastically change use of cell phones as we know it today as the biggest problem with the cell phones, namely the input mechanisms, is now solved. With the new generation of devices, ScanZoom will allow to send an email, give a call, access a website, download music or purchase items according to the data scanned.
I’ve requested a review unit and will report back.
I think the product you are thinking of is the Cue Cat. That was the device that was supposed to work with a special bar code in magazine advertising that, when scanned by the “cat,” would whisk you to the advertiser’s web site for more info. There were many problems with the product and the concept, but I think the company eventually went bust because they gave the scanning devices away for free and people used them for other purposes (if you were lucky enough to get one, there are web sites that have instructions telling you how to convert the device to a normal bar code reader).
The C Pen also reads bar codes (certain models used to, I think), but is more like a copier than a bar code reader (I say “is” because the company that makes the C Pen is still around, check here: http://www.cpen.com/).
What a complete waste of time and money. There are only 2 places to get comparison prices via their service. Me and my micro zoom lens were hassled by the manager of Best Buy for using this product in the store. Definitely not worth it.
I am wondering about the potential to use cell phones/PDAs to scan barcodes to add events to personal calendars. For example, is it possible to put barcodes on invitations/flyers? The barcode would include info about an event that would be added to a calendar when scanned.