Fujitsu Laboratories Ltd has developed a system which embeds tiny points of light into TV commercials. Your smartphone camera is able to spot the changes in brightness and translate them into digital code, allowing you to access the embedded information.

Fujitsu Replaces QR Codes with Discreetly-Embedded Light System

If you want some additional information on a product you’ve seen on an advertisement or in-store, you’re increasingly likely to obtain it a QR code, that ubiquitous two-dimensional rectangle. Some brands are even trying out QR codes in TV advertising. Insurance giant Axa is one such company. If you’re watching Axa’s advertisement and want to see how the story unfolds, you can scan the QR code on the door of the house that you see on your TV screen. With this approach, making the QR code visible to the audience is part and parcel of the communication and engagement process. However, if it’s just a matter of rounding out the information given in the advertisement – providing additional details or enabling the user to make a purchase – then there’s no need to show the little black-and-white chequered rectangle. Fujitsu Laboratories has developed technology to replace the QR code with a code system that’s imperceptibleto the human eye, and which works on the basis of changes in brightness of points of light so that it can be discreetly embedded in a TV advertisement.

Imperceptible points of light

This new approach is based on the realisation that people increasingly continue to tap away on their mobile phones while watching ‘the box’.  So, phone in hand, all you have to do is open the dedicated application then point your smartphone camera at the television while the advertisement is showing. Upstream, the Fujitsu technology has embedded tiny points of light into the commercial. The changes in the brightness of these points of light during the commercial represent the binary 0s and 1s of digital data. At the viewer’s end, his/her smartphone camera detects and decodes the changes in brightness, and thus receives the embedded information – an image, additional details, etc. – all without the viewer being aware of the process.

Making a purchase or receiving coupons

The user needs to be within three metres of the TV screen for the system to work.  At the moment, the technology works for TV commercials and advertising on computers or tablets. In the longer term Fujitsu also intends to make the embedding technology available for digital signage such as you find in town centres, to help you obtain information on a location you want to get to, book plane tickets, download coupons in a store, or make product purchases. However, there seems to be one drawback: unlike solutions such as SmartSystem, which displays a fluorescent icon to show the user that an image is ‘augmented’ for info retrieval, the Fujitsu technology does not appear to provide this functionality.