Does anyone remember the ill-fated CueCat barcode scanners that supposedly were going to change how we interact with print content? You'd see a code in a magazine, scan it with the CueCat connected to your computer and your browser would automatically go to related content. The idea didn't work, mostly (I believe) because we rarely read magazines, newspapers, books, etc., when we're right next to our computer. It wasn't a portable solution.
The iPhone, on the other hand, is a portable solution and the built-in camera offers the ability to read barcodes...at least in theory. I played around a bit this morning with an iPhone barcode reader app called NeoReader and got mixed results at best. Even if the technology is currently far from perfect, the concept is interesting and the capabilities will improve over time.
Wouldn't it be cool to embed small barcodes throughout magazines, newspapers and books so that when a reader snaps a picture of them with their iPhone it loads a video showing more information about that topic? You're making a recipe from a cookbook and you're not quite sure which ingredients get mixed together first. Grab your iPhone, take a picture of the barcode next to the recipe and watch a short video of how the dish is made.
Better yet, how many times have you pulled your hair out trying to assemble a child's toy, a piece of furniture or any one of a zillion other products with lousy documentation? What if all these vendors were to create short videos of each step and make them accessible via barcode scans right in the doc? If you're not a visual learner you can continue using the awful written instructions; the rest of us will gladly reach for our iPhones to see how it's done!
You've undoubtedly noticed that I'm biased towards one particular platform, mostly because in less than two weeks I too have become one of those annoying iPhone snobs. In reality though, what I'm describing could work for any phone with a camera and video playback capabilities.
The difference between this and the CueCat is that I almost always have my iPhone handy and I can easily make sure it's next to whatever project I'm currently working on. It's an interesting model because it doesn't cost any more from a printing perspective. And while there's a cost associated with creating and hosting the videos, this opens the door for new sponsorships and/or advertising revenue streams, not to mention a much richer reader/user experience. (I'm not sure how it's paying off for them but the Pandora iPhone app interface is a nice model for sponsorship income, at least from a user point of view.)