Imagine if you were able to take a picture of a travel poster using your iPhone's camera and then automatically download to your iPhone a list of Web sites where you could compare tour packages, look at maps, find names of places to stay and all the other information you would need to put together the vacation of your dreams.
Microsoft Tag Reader uses the iPhone's camera to read "high-capacity color barcodes," a technology developed by Microsoft researchers. HCCBs are not intended to replace the familiar black-striped barcodes we all know and love. They supplement them with postage-stamp-sized barcodes with colored triangles packed with more information than once thought possible.
The barcodes that Microsoft Tag reads could contain any sort of information and set into motion a diverse set of actions. For example, snapping a picture of an HCCB in a magazine ad for a new band would automatically send iPhone (and other smartphone) owners to their favorite social networking sites, enable them to review a list of top 10 music videos and download the videos they want to see to their iPhones.
The possibilities are endless and do not require iPhone owners to type URLs or even launch their browsers.
Like most things that sound too good to be true, there's a catch: Microsoft will need as many businesses as possible to buy into using HCCBs and it's hard to say so early in the game whether the company will be successful at doing that.
In the meantime, take the technology out for a spin. Download the free Microsoft Tag app from the App Store, and then go to Microsoft's Tag Web site where you'll find an HCCB to shoot.
There's also a video that shows the technology in action and provides a few more details.