Semapedia adopts QR Code

8 12 2006

Semapedia is a project to link the physical world to the digital one, through the use of 2D Barcodes. 2D barcodes are placed on physical objects, and decoding a 2D Barcode with a camera phone provides a user with the Wikipedia article on that object.

There are a number of 2D barcode “formats,” each with various strengths and weaknesses, (the major three being Semacode/Datamatrix, QR Code, and ShotCode). Semacode used to be based on the Semacode method for creating and decoding 2D barcodes; but it seems that the open Datamatrix standard, upon which Semacode is based, has not been developing and innovating as fast, and has not been adopted as quickly internationally, as the Quick Response (QR) Code format, which is widely used in Japan. As a result, Semapedia is shifting towards the use of QR Codes (although Semacodes/Datamatrix will always be supported):

We have changed our 2D code base to QR codes instead of Datamatrix codes so far. Of course, all Semapedia tags generated and distributed up to now STILL WORK and will always work. We consider experimenting with QR codes an interesting new approach because they offer several extended features than Datamatrix codes. Also, the adoption of QR codes with cellphone manufacturers and scanning software providers has increased dramatically in the past 6 months. Our goal is to connect  the real and the virtual in a meaningful and beautiful way. Going with QR codes from here inherits the promise to have more people being able to use Semapedia Tags much faster than if they were based on the Datamatrix standard.

With its obvious educational value, this move by Semapedia brings QR Code closer to becoming a de-facto standard for 2D Barcodes in education.

(via All About Mobile Life)

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Bluepulse: Aussie innovation best mobile media platform ever?

5 12 2006

The internationally popular MobileCrunch blog speculates it may be the “ultimate mobile media platform,” and it’s the innovation of one of our own, Australian entrepreneur Ben Keighran.

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Bluepulse is a free Mobile Web 2.0 application that installs easily on almost any mobile phone (you don’t even need to know what kind of phone you have), and promises the ultimate in mobile multitasking through the innovative use of widgets running within the Bluepulse application. This makes it quick to switch between widgets without losing any data, and the widgets themselves are more functional and powerful than most stand-alone mobile web applications.  There are all the usual suspects: MSN or Yahoo messengers, Flickr, Blogger blogging tools, GMail, Email, chat and weather.  Some others I’ve never seen on any other mobile platform before include traffic camera locations, and a blood alcohol tester.

MobileCrunch has the scoop:

Looking at bluepulse 2.0 in its totality you’re really facing a pretty significant leap forward in mobile application platforms. And make no mistake about it, this is a full fledged mobile multimedia platform that allows users to create a detailed user profile including photos and videos, an ever growing array of mobile widgets that helpyou do everything from checking the traffic or surf to planning what you’re going to watch on the tele tonight (plus digg, flickr, gmail and more), as well as chat in various chat rooms while browsing your new friends “places” while chatting, and last but not least, bluepulse has its own built in messaging application that allows you to text friends AND broadcast messages.

I’ve seen quite a number of mobile applications in the last twelve months and many have been very comprehensive but I do not believe thatI’ve seen a single platform that had as many different functions as bluepulse 2.0; especially not one with the diversity of widgets or the ability to run on so many phones.

You can get Bluepulse on your mobile by browsing to http://get.bluepulse.com/

The included widgets already have great potential for use in the delivery of mobile learning strategies, but Bluepulse is also similar to a mobile learning platform for mobile devices I’m currently developing, in terms of its widget-based architecture to enable seamless data sharing between applications such as QR-Code reader, browser, progress/gradebook and learning content. I’ve felt such an m-learning platform needs to be developed, as there’s no existing software out there that’s actually designed specifically for enabling a broad, integrated range of m-learning opportunities.

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Japanese food data: a model for m-learning?

29 11 2006

In Japan, 2D barcodes are used to provide consumer information for a range of food products, allowing consumers to make informed choices. But could this model of tagging products with digital “links” also be used to enable both informal, lifelong, situated learning, as well as enhanced safety and first-aid practices in the future?

More and more people outside of Japan are catching on to the concept of encoding information that can be read by ordinary cellphones. Microsoft have only recently implemented a beta version of such a system with Windows Live Barcode; but in Japan, over 30 million people already use their mobile phones to digitally retrieve information from advertising, media, and food packaging, using QR Codes (as illustrated below).

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Hank Green at the Treehugger blog notes the kind of information consumers might want to know about the food they’re buying, to enable them to make informed choices:

We need to tell where it came from, what it contains, the labor conditions of it’s harvest, how it’s going to taste, if it’s good for us, and whether we’re getting a good deal.

Hank further notes that the use of QR Codes to provide consumer information is common practice in Japan:

Almost all cell phones sold in Japan today contain QR code readers, and the Japanese Food Safety commission has already begun to notice preferential purchase of locally grown foods due to the QR tags. It turns out that knowing more about food actually results in buyers making better decisions…who’d have guessed!? Now I guess we’re just going to have to wait for the rest of the world to catch up.

Here’s an example of some sandwiches labelled with QR Codes – as a consumer, you would be able to find out everything you need to know about them with an ordinary cameraphone, loaded with reader software:

Encoded product information like this could provide a model for creating informal, lifelong, ubiquitous, situated mobile learning. Although QR Codes can store over 4,000 alpha-numeric characters within a single barcode, information could also be accessed via a QR Code containing a URL – launching a product web page for any product that provides details of what it is, what it does, or what it’s made of. The model need not be retricted to food items – potentially, clothing (manufacture & care instructions), tools (model & safety data), or chemicals (materials safety data sheets), for example, could benefit from this approach.

A student or worker who needed information on a particular chemical or tool would be able to access the information when and where they needed it. Since many first aid situations, for example, occur inconveniently far from an internet-connected computer, accessing materials safety data anywhere would be an enormous advantage, that could help save lives, as well as provide learning opportunities.

In a completely different industry, QR Code links on garment care instructions could enable students, trainees or workers in fashion or retail industries develop their knowledge of garment manufacturing processes and materials. Consumers would also have more ability to make informed decisions about locally or ethically manufactured products, to enable them to make better choices.

I think it’s going to be several years before we might start seeing products labelled with digital “links” to more information in this way; much depends on mobile telecommunications manufacturers and/or providers seeing the potential of these technologies to provide a useful data service for their users, and incorporating 2D barcodes into mobile handsets at point-of-sale (or manufacture), to remove the need for users to locate and install their own software.

However, with widespread use and obvious success in Japan, I’m sure that it’s just a matter of time before the technology becomes readily available in other parts of the world, triggering a global surge in user-centric mobile data use.

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Mobile Learning Redefined

26 11 2006

Steve Dembo, author of tech42.com has posted up a super video presentation entitled “Mobile Learning Redefined“. His “redefinition” centres around using the technology already in the pockets of students, rather than the introduction of “new” technologies. He covers a number of approaches already covered in this blog (such as 2D Barcodes, mobile web site tools, and moblogging), but also brings up a few new ideas worth exploring, such as:

  • QuizFaberQuizFaber creates multiple-choice quizzes for the mobile web
  • Flickr – features a mobile version of Flickr.
  • Mobilicio.usMobilicio.us allows you to remotely access your bookmarks, and Del.icio.us mona allows you to remotely save bookmarks
  • Remote PodcastingGcast.com allows you to call a phone number to leave a message, which is instantly published as a podcast.

Check out the video here (warning: large file, 43MB).

“Mobile Learning Redefined”

(via Learning in Hand)

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Access your PC from your mobile

28 09 2006

ajax menu selectionA new free service called SoonR allows mobile phones equipped with the Opera Mobile web browser to securely access PC files, Outlook data (including emails), and talk using VOIP.

Happily, because the service can be used from a mobile web browser, it doesn’t require any additional software to be installed on mobile phones, avoiding problems with phone hardware or carrier incompatibilities.

A product like this could be used to access a learner’s own “Personal Learning Environment” (PLE) of files and data on their own PC – like a mobile portfolio of learning.  Its built-in VOIP and chat tools could also provide a means of communicating with peers.

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Firefox Extensions for Mobile Learning

11 09 2006

Following my discovery of the Mobile Barcode extension for Firefox, I’ve had a bit of a rummage around for other extensions for the fantastic Firefox browser that support mobile learning.

  • MoblogUK Extra: Adds a search to the front page, inline tag prompts and auto linking to moblogUK.
  • XHTML Mobile Profile: allows your Firefox browser to view WAP webpages designed for mobile phones (MIME-type vnd.wap.xhtml+xml). Useful for mobile content developers. Another extension, WML browser, would also be useful for this purpose.
  • Small Screen Renderer: “Turn your Firefox into a cellphone browser. It adds a new menu entry ‘Small Screen Rendering’ under the View menu. Just select it to have the page you are currently browsing redisplayed in a cellphone style.”
  • Unplug and/or VideoDownloader: Allow you to save embedded videos from YouTube, etc, to your computer for later viewing. DownloadHelper has similar video downloading functionality, as well as built-in image downloading support.
  • TinyURL Creator: Creates a short URL for a web page from within the browser, so that it can be more easily input into a mobile device – similar to WAPUrl.
  • GMiF (Google Maps in Flickr): enables mapping of geotagged (location specified) images in Flickr, using Google Maps. GeoURL is another extension that can be used to locate web pages relating to a geographical location – useful for developing location-based m-learning.
  • Podcast Search Toolbar: Searches over 10,000 podcasts, and has an integrated internet radio feature to listen to audio online.
  • Pix2Fone: Allows you to save any web image or mp3 sound file for later retrieval via WAP on your mobile phone, in a mobile-optimised format.

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Mobile Web Best Practices Checker

30 08 2006

W3C have been actively pursuing standards to enable mobile browsing fromt he web a reality, through their Mobile Web Initiative.  Following the release of their Mobile Web Best Practices 1.0 earlier this year, they have now provided an alpha version of an automated guidelines checker, to help check mobile websites for conformance with their new recommended standard.

If you’re developing web-based learning content for mobile devices, I’d recommend working with the new W3C standard and using their guidelines checker, as we move towards improved usability and standardisation on the mobile web.

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