mgranados' essays

I got amused by scanning a QR code

June 2019

I truly did. It was a rainy afternoon in Mexico City. I was having my first date with my now girlfriend. We were hanging at a bar which offered multiple crafted beers. On the table there was a QR code on a sticker. I had no intention on finding out what it was or what kind of thing we could do with it. But my girlfriend was curious enough to pull out the phone and get to the bottom of this QR code situation.

Just to clarify, the last time I had tried to use QR codes was with Snapchat circa 2016 when you could add friends with yoursnapcode and that was pretty much it. I recall an attempt by Twitter to do the same on the mobile app but that's it for my experience of mainstream uses for QR codes. First thing that caught me off guard was that she pulled out her phone, started the camera app and BAM! it was done. Once the QR was read it provided a notification on the native camera on iOS and away she went to register for some free beers on our next visit.

It is worth noting that I was so astonished by this action that my girlfriend shamed me for acting that way, anyway I could not believe it. Apple had taken the time to establish the QR code reading as part of the native camera. Did they believe in this ancient tech? Was that a thing again? What other uses may come for this on the future?

Nowadays we seem to have it as part of little rituals in tech, you have them as identifiers for crypto wallets. Some minor approaches have been made to incorporate them into fintech at least for banking in Mexico. Google even made some tests for using QR as part of an auth system. Whatsapp does that nowadays for their desktop/web applications and it works OK. You enter the url and scan away the QR code with your phone's whatsapp logged app, that opens up a session with your credentials on the desktop interface which is pretty clever and easy.

You also get a QR code when you are sending money or asking for money on most crypto wallets, although you get the option of copy/pasting the string that identifies your wallet as well. I know also that it has potential and is used for triggering animations and effects on AR applications for its speed of reading with a camera. Almost all access systems for events in Mexico work with a ticket that also has a QR code. Cinema tickets use QR codes as well, even if used with Apple Wallet.

Maybe I got amused at that bar because of the so-so experiences I recalled from reading a QR code previously in my life. Most definitively the QR's are here to stay identifying payments, ticket holders at the cinema and other things other than autoparts in Japan for more years.

Thanks to Abraham Gonzalez, Jimena Ibarra and Marco Godinez for reading drafts of this.
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