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Last Updated: Thursday, 19 April 2007, 10:01 GMT 11:01 UK
Colour barcode system to hit DVDs
Barcode and Xbox disk
The new barcode will appear on games later this year
A colour barcode system holding more data than current codes will find its way onto DVDs later this year.

The four and eight-colour geometric patterns can hold up to two-pages of data, double the amount of traditional black and white, striped barcodes

Developed by Microsoft, it is one of a number of competing products hoping to find their way onto packaging.

Microsoft has said consumers could interact with the new barcodes, using webcams and mobile phones with cameras.

Gavin Jancke, the Microsoft Research engineering director who developed the so-called High Capacity Color Barcode (HCCB), said the aim was not to replace the current barcode system, called UPC.

"It's more of a 'partner' barcode," he said. "The UPC barcodes will always be there. Ours is more of a niche barcode where you want to put a lot of information in a small space."

Up to 3,500 alphabetical characters of data can be embedded into each square inch of the barcode.

The code is made up of up to eight-different coloured triangles which are aligned left to right with each shape placed from point to base or vice versa.

Colour combination

That combination of colours and orientation of the triangles creates distinct patterns which can be read by piece of software which deciphers the data.

ISAN, the voluntary numbering system for the identification of audiovisual works, is the first organisation to license the technology.

By the end of the year the colour barcodes will appear on DVD disks and on Xbox 360 videogames.

Up to 3,500 characters of information can be held in the code

Because the barcode can be read by mobile phone cameras it can be used to connect the packaging to the online world.

Information such as a website address or e-mail address could be stored inside the barcode and once scanned by a mobile phone, the consumer could be taken to a promotional page, a website offering downloads or extra content.

US company DatatraceDNA will embed a nanoparticle into the code as an anti-counterfeiting measure.

The particle consists of a group of molecules which is integrated into the structure of the code and packaging.

When the material is illuminated under a particular frequency of light a unique emission spectrum is detected by a hand-held digital reader.

Other companies are developing rival systems which aim to encode data into printed material.

Japanese firm Fujitsu recently showed off applications of its steganography technology, which embeds data in plain sight by taking advantage of the eye's inability to see the colour yellow properly.

Hiding messages in plain sight
15 Feb 07 |  Technology
How do 2D barcodes work?
20 Sep 06 |  Magazine
In praise of the barcode
16 Feb 02 |  Science/Nature

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