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MIT NewsFlash Uses Light as Alternative to QR Codes

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QR codes were supposed to revolutionize the way that we interact with the world, but that hasn’t really come to pass. Even so, a couple of guys from the MIT Media Lab have come up with a fascinating QR code alternative that they call NewsFlash. And it works in an entirely different way.

Whereas QR codes are effectively 2D barcodes that have to take up space on a page, NewsFlash is effectively invisible to the human eye. That’s because it uses flashes of pink and green light that the human eye effectively averages out and does not see; however, the camera on your smartphone can see these pulses, which are then effectively translated as binary code that your phone can then understand. Using the NewsFlash app, you are then redirected accordingly.

In the video below, as an example, a scan of a newspaper page on a tablet sends the smartphone to the same article within the app. In much the same way, a NewsFlash scan of a newspaper in a foreign language can send you an English translation of that article automatically. Of course, this will only work with lit displays and not printed materials, since regular paper can’t flash pink and green, but this could prove interesting in certain signage and other scenarios.


About Michael Kwan

A freelance writer and tech geek from Vancouver. Find me at michaelkwan.com and follow me on Twitter @michaelkwan.

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  • Geeceebris

    QR Codes win again

    As you said NewsFlash only works on lit displays
    Why not just print the damn QR code on the printed & online page
    People see the QR code, they know what it is, if they want to they’ll scan it