Remember the last time you scanned a QR code? Us neither. The square-shaped sequences of black dots and squares, created in 1994 by the Japanese automotive industry, seemed to be just about everywhere a few short years ago. But the absence of preloaded QR code readers on popular smartphones and the inconvenience of scanning the little buggers contributed to their widespread decline. That didn’t stop Google from updating its Chrome browser on iOS with a QR code reader, though.
Pulling it up is as easy as pie. If you happen to have an Apple device that supports 3D Touch, the haptic feedback feature introduced in the iPhone 6S, you can access the “Scan QR Code” option from Chrome’s quick access menu. If you’re stuck with legacy hardware, on the other hand, you can access the feature from iOS’s Spotlight search. Type in “QR Code” or “Scan QR Code” to get it to appear in the list of results.
Chrome’s scanner isn’t limited to QR codes. It can scan barcodes, too — doing so takes you to a Google search page with details about the item in question.
Other minor Chrome improvements include a redesigned tab switcher on iPad devices that “[makes] it easier to access your open sites,” and quick links to voice search and Chrome’s privacy-conscious Incognito mode.
Recent advancements in artificial intelligence and computer vision — the science of automatically extracting, analyzing, and understanding the content of a single picture — have fostered the development of QR code alternatives. Google’s deprecated app could identify labels, landmarks, and printed text. Similarly, Amazon’s Flow app can recognize tens of millions of products, including books, DVDs, business cards, and packaged household items like a box of cereal or a box of tissues.
QR codes aren’t exactly dead and buried, to be fair. They have gained second wind from social media apps like Snapchat, Facebook Messenger, and Kik. Snapchat’s Snapcodes let you add another person on Snapchat without having to type in their username, and allows users to link website addresses to custom codes. Facebook Messenger Codes work much the same way. And Kik Codes let fellow Kik customers connect with one another, add new participants to a group conversation, or even trigger actions like purchasing a soda or printing a photo.
That is not to suggest Chrome for iOS’s newfound scanner will hasten the return of QR codes, but you might get more use out of it than you think.
Google Chrome is a free download in the App Store.
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