At first, I wondered why SXSW campers were grabbing at others' badges and holding them up to their cellphones. Then, someone pointed out that QR codes were printed on badges this year. QR codes are little squares filled with boxy squiggles. They were invented in Japan (of course) and first used to keep track of auto parts for delivery. Now they're used on everything from magazine covers to business cards. QR stands for "Quick Response" and with proper reader installed, taking a pic of a QR code catapults you to a Web site. In the case of SXSW badges, you were directed to the owner's "my.SXSW" social network url. Interestingly, no one seemed to pay QRs much attention after the first day or so. For one thing, it was kind of awkward pointing your cellphone at someone's chest. For another, it seemed just as easy, and more efficient, to ask for a card.
The item in schwag bags that most got people talking were samples of Sticky Bits, a new app launched at SXSW this year. StickyBits are stickers printed with bar codes. You stick one on an object you want to track, scan the code, then upload a video, photo, voice message, text message or anything digital you want to attach. You'll be notified when the attachment is downloaded and where. Attach video to a birthday card, resume to a business card, photo of something you're trying to sell with a flier. A pack of 20 stickers are available on Amazon for $9.95, but barcodes can be downloaded for free on the StickyBits website. I haven't stuck bits on anything yet. But carrying around the pak, so I'm ready when inspired to do so.
Space Food Stix
Former Tang lovers will remember the original power bars created by Pillsbury, official sponsor of NASA. High energy protein snacks supposedly developed for space-age travel. Shaped like Slim Jims, they tasted like flavored Tootsie Rolls: peanut butter, caramel, chocolate. All were packed in foil wrapping to simulate space age-ness. Good news! They're back. Found them on trays next to the crudites at several SXSW parties. Get 'em here. Fresh from outer space.