Beautiful, sophisticated and creepy? Visualead rolls out new QR code technology for Alibaba (VIDEO)
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This reporter interviewing Visualead's VP of Marketing, Oded Israeli, at Microsoft's Think Next conference. Photo Credit: Geektime / YouTube

The new, more secure QR code technology hardly has any dots, making them more appealing to consumers. But you need to download Alibaba’s app to scan them. Alibaba hopes consumers will do so, making them easier to track online

Fresh off a $5-10 million investment from Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, Visualead, the Israeli startup that makes QR codes more beautiful, has unveiled what they call dotless visual codes — these are like QR codes but more beautiful and secure. Plus, you need a special app to scan them.

Dotless visual codes resemble QR Codes in their distinct square markers, which intuitively inform consumers that the codes should be scanned with a mobile device. However, these codes are not black and white. Instead, they embed a colorful image, logo, or a visual call to action on 90% of the code’s surface, making them far more visually appealing and engaging to consumers. Most importantly, you can’t scan them without downloading Alibaba Group’s Mobile Taobao application.

“It’s much more attractive and engaging to the human eye,” Visualead’s VP of Marketing, Oded Israeli, told Geektime at Microsoft’s Think Next conference in Tel Aviv. That’s important if you want to stand out and get consumers to actually scan your QR codes.

It’s also great for Alibaba because if you’re using their app, they can track your activity and send you personalized offers.

Buyer beware!

Second, the new codes use computer vision to make them more secure. Perhaps this is the incentive that Alibaba thinks will encourage consumers to download their proprietary app. According to reports, 63 percent of goods sold on Alibaba are fake. If you’re a consumer in China, it’s pretty much up to you to sniff out the counterfeits. Unless you download the Taobao app, which comes at a small price — giving the app access to your personal data.

Here’s how it works: Let’s say you want to buy a bottle of medicine in China. You can use the Taobao app to scan the bottle’s label, and you will immediately find out if the medicine is bona fide or counterfeit.

Visualead’s Secure O2O connectivity solutions are applicable not only for product packaging and anti-counterfeiting, but also for social networks, website login and authentication, mobile payments, mobile coupons, and mobile ticketing. In other words, once you download the app, Alibaba is hoping you will use it for all your online needs.

Brands such as L’Oréal and Ferrero have created millions of unique Dotless Visual Codes from Visualead for their product packages sold in China. They’re betting that consumers will download the Taobao app. Whether they do so remains to be seen.

Why are QR codes such a big deal in China?

For those unfamiliar with QR codes, they are the squares on the sides of cereal boxes or bus stops that you are supposed to scan with your mobile phone. Most people don’t scan them — except in places like China, where they actually do. QR codes are a huge hit in the world’s most populous nation. That’s because they solve the pain point of 300,000 people having the same name, or the fact that there are 3,000 characters in the Chinese alphabet. This makes searching for someone online like finding a needle in a haystack, unless, of course, that needle has a QR code.

To learn more about how Visualead is innovating this space, watch this reporter’s interview with Visualead’s Oded Israeli here.

*Correction (1 p.m. IST): An earlier version stated that the new technology were QR codes, rather than based off of QR codes. 

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Simona Weinglass

About Simona Weinglass

I’m an old-school journalist who recently decided to pivot into high-tech. I work in high-tech marketing as well as print and broadcast media covering politics, business culture and everything in between.

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