ASCII Art Bar Codes

Bar codes are used on all kind of items. Typically, they encode additional information about the item like a number or an external link.
With the wide spread use of mobile phones, bar codes can be easily scanned by everyone and they are used on a ever growing number of physical “items” like billboards or news papers.

Inspired by ASCII art like

███─█─███─█─█──┏┓┏ ┳┣┓┏┏┫┏┓┗┳┛
█─█─█─█───█─█──┗┛┣ ┃┃┃┣┗┛┣┫ ┃

we thought of creating bar codes with a different medium, other than images. In particular, we aim at creating bar codes that are made from ASCII symbols which can be read by OCR tools and do not require dedicated bar code reader software. In addition of reusing existing software, we also want to address a weakness of bar codes: unless you scan a bar code, you do not know what is in the bar code. Our idea is to include information that can be read by people into the bar code. We foresee a small text region that explains the bar code content. For example, a text like “http” explains that the bar code points to a web page, “tel” could indicate a telephone number and so on. We believe that we could reuse URL schema for this purpose.
However, there are some challenges that we need to address. First of all, we need to find a design which can be used to include this kind of information seamlessly into the bar code. We consider this as main challenge, because this will need lots of creative work :-) .
Second of all, we need to decide how much data will be encoded in the bar code. Generally speaking, the smaller the amount of data the better. For this purpose, we plan to build an URL shortener that is able to handle different kind of data, besides Web links. In doing so, we use only a few bytes, because we only encode the pointer to the data.

your ikangai science team

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