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Thursday, April 10, 2008

The tribulations of bringing new technology to Case Western

Posted By on Thu, Apr 10, 2008 at 5:32 AM

In the future, you may be able to just scan a bar code on this lady's butt to get access to her personal profile.
Two months ago, Case Western announced a partnership with the Mobile Discovery telephone company. The two institutions were working together to test out a new technology known as the 2D or QR (quick response) barcode system. In Japan, where the system is widely used, phones are used to scan bar codes posted on signs and products, providing instant info to customers about things like cost and availability. At Case, they were largely used to students know about events on campus or what the dining halls were serving for dinner… In the fall, students in a graduate engineering classes plastered signs all over campus with specially designed bar codes. Then they recruited Case staffers and students to download a Mobile Discovery program to their phones that could decipher the codes. When they pointed their cell phones at the bar codes, the phone would act like a grocery store scanner. The information would be transferred directly to their screens. Interest, however, has proven lukewarm at best. Seems if people want to know what’s happening on campus, they’d prefer to ask their friends. And not pay for the service. Then last month, David Miller, chief executive of Mobile Discovery, came to the university to talk to students about marketing 2D. In order to demonstrate to students how the 2D system might work in the future, Miller showed a slide of a topless woman, straddling a chair backwards, and wearing form fitting jeans. The jeans had a bar code on them. The idea Miller was apparently trying to show was how these bar codes could be used creatively in advertising and promotion. In Japan, one woman has tattooed a code on herself that can be scanned to access her profile page. But some students had a different take. "So just as a suggestion, I think you should work on a technology where I can take a picture of an aesthetically pleasing woman and get her number,” one student called out. Miller was enthused. He went on to ruminate out loud, suggesting things like putting codes on female students’ butts. When others zapped them, they could access dating sites. Apparently females didn’t like their bottoms being compared to the side of a Budweiser can. When word got around about Miller’s speech, they started a boycott against the 2D system. Miller’s reps won’t say how many students have downloaded the system, but a random sampling of Case students found that none of the roughly dozen people asked had ever used it. Despite the early signs of rejections, students involve in the project are convinced it will succeed in the U.S. "Text messaging was the first wave," Nsi Obotetukudo, a graduate engineering student, told the school paper. "At first people were skeptical, but now everyone incorporates text messaging." – Rebecca Meiser


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