Bokodes explained...

Bokodes are Imperceptible Visual Tags for Camera Based Interaction from a Distance.

Put more simply, they're a visual data tag usually only 3mm wide but capable of holding thousands of times more information than a standard barcode. They can be read from a distance, up to a few meters away, by any standard digital camera including those built into about a billion mobile phones around the world which give this technology great potential for growth. They're so small that they appear as a tiny dot to the human eye or to a camera in sharp focus but an out of focus camera lens will see thousands of bits of information. The name 'Bokode' comes from an amalgamation of the words 'bokeh' (a Japanese photographic term describing image blur or an out of focus area in a photograph) and 'barcode'.

Bokodes, not spelt bocodes or borecodes, were developed by a team at the MIT Media Lab  (and wiki) who saw an opportunity to upgrade the standard barcode, which is relatively large, limited in the information it can carry and which can only be read from a short distance, to one that could help develop a new and more flexible interface between us and machines through visual sharing of information.

Bokode example
What the camera sees, the Bokode is the center object

How do they work?

The pattern in a Bokode is a tiled series of data matrix codes containing thousands of bits of information that are almost invisible to the naked eye. The lens causes the pattern to spread and become readable to a digital camera.

When the camera is pointed at a Bokode it only sees a small portion of the Bokode information at a time but the data is encoded in such a way that the camera knows it's relative position to the Bokode, more info....

What are the main advantages?

  1. Can contain far more information than a standard barcode
  2. Less obtrusive, classic barcodes are larger and take up more space on packaging
  3. More private than RFID Radio frequency identification which can be read at a distance by any equipment that can receive radio signals
  4. Can be read from a distance of a few meters by any digital camera
  5. Can contain a variety of useful information
  6. May lead to a new type of flexible interaction between machines and the human world
  7. Can be used in multiple contexts including education, business presentations, libraries, shops, gaming and product tracking in factories

So how soon could Bokodes be used to replace barcodes? That depends on cost, currently Bokodes require a lens, LED and power source and cost around $5 to produce, but reflective Bokodes, like the hologram on a credit card, would only cost around 5c. The team has passive prototypes already in development.

Rewritable Bokode are called Bocodes.

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