Is Clickable Paper Killing QR Codes?

Would You Use Clickable Paper or Stick With QR Codes - Clickable Paper appsIf there was an alternative to QR codes, would you use it?  What about your customers?  To some people, QR codes are ugly, horrible pieces of technology that will never catch on.  To others, a QR code is the best way to bridge the gap from the physical to the electronic.

If designed well, QR codes can add to your design and make your customers experience better.  Unfortunately, many people and companies don’t understand QR codes and fail to incorporate these little marvels into designs early enough.  But, what if we didn’t need QR codes?  What if we could take a picture of a piece of paper and get the same effect?

Would You Use Clickable Paper or Stick With QR Codes - Scanning for an imageAccording to Mashable, electronics company Ricoh has been working on a service they call Clickable Paper.  Looking at the article (and the video), the concept looks interesting.  The Clickable Paper service allows publishers to upload images of their print documents to a server.  When a user takes a picture using the Clickable Paper app, that image is compared to any images uploaded to the service using a technology called RVS or Ricoh Visual Search.  If there is a match, the user is presented with a few links or other options within the app.  Sounds great, right?  Like everything in life, it depends.

So, let’s compare the Clickable Paper service with QR codes:

Ease of use

QR codes – Requires a scanning app (several available)

Clickable Paper – Requires a scanning app (only 1 app that was released in late 2013)

Winner – Tie, but QR codes get the advantage due to more options for scanning apps

Ease of implementation

QR codes – Free generators, good online documentation, flexible data encoding

Clickable Paper – New technology with little information available

Winner – QR codes


QR codes – You can customize and pretty them up a bit but they are still square codes that some people don’t like

Clickable Paper – No change to the design necessary

Winner – Clickable Paper

Would You Use Clickable Paper or Stick With QR Codes - Searching for a match

Of course, there are other criteria but these are some of the ones that are important to many people.  I may be a little bias toward QR codes but they are the simpler technology and most often, simple is good.

The main disadvantage I see with Clickable Paper is that it requires a connection to the internet and access to the uploaded images.  While this is not a kiss of death for a service, it is important to consider, especially in places where cellular data reception is very slow or intermittent.

Would You Use Clickable Paper or Stick With QR Codes - Match found, optionsWhat would it look like to use Clickable Paper?  Let’s say a publisher uploaded an image of a new book using the Clickable Paper service.  You, as a consumer, takes a picture of the book with the Clickable Paper app.  The app and the Clickable Paper service, using RVS, compares the image with all the other images in the database.  If there is a match, you the consumer are presented with a number of options to click on.  Works great if you have good internet access.  Not so good if you don’t.  Fortunately, the app keeps a history of the Clickable Paper you encounter so you can revisit the links and options later.

Now, let’s see what that same task looks like with a QR code.  With QR codes, data is actually encoded in the graphic.  Using the same example, a publisher could add a QR code to the book cover (or anywhere within the book).  When you, the consumer, scans the QR code, the app decodes the data and performs a task (sends you to a web site, makes a call, sends a SMS, provides you with directions to a location, etc).  No connection to the internet required to get the data.  Depending on the QR code scanning app, your scanning history is saved.  In that case, you could scan a number of QR codes with encoded URLs and visit (or revisit) the pages later.

Deciding which technology to use, Clickable Paper or QR codes, can be a tough decision.  Both have their advantages and disadvantages.  For me, I think sticking with QR codes is the way to go but Clickable Paper offers some exciting possibilities.  It will be interesting to see how things go in the coming year.

What do you think, Clickable Paper or QR codes?