Microsoft gives bar codes a splash of color

Microsoft finds monochromatic stripes dull, and has put its weight behind a colored bar code format. The color bar code is being targeted especially for use on commercial media such as movies, video games and other recordings. Microsoft said the High Capacity Color Bar Code could start showing up on DVDs by the end of this year, thanks to a deal it has signed with an organization that helps coordinate product labelling for audiovisual works. "We use color to store more information," said Gavin Jancke, director of engineering for Microsoft's research labs. Jancke is the creator of the new bar code format, which uses either four or eight hues to pack more data into less space. The new bar code also uses small triangles, as opposed to traditional squares. The new bar code is mean to allow DVDs and their packages to offer added security or, potentially, links to a movie trailer or other bonus features.

The downside for color labels is the required high-quality printing, not to mention standard bar code scanners also won't read the codes. Jancke insists this bar code is different than the failed CueCat, which embedded bar code links in print publications. "The CueCat required specific hardware that needed to be attached to a PC," Jancke said, noting that the Microsoft-developed bar code could be read by devices consumers already have, such as a Web cam or cell phone camera.

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