Bokodes talk to you through your smart-phone camera

According to an estimate on this video, the world is teeming with a billion people who are armed with a “reasonably high quality” digital camera. Most of these cameras are in cell phones. The Camera Culture, of the prestigious MIT Media Lab, wishes to exploit this opportunity with a new type of barcode, called the Bokode. The video below shows the science behind this breathtaking new technology.

Geek Alert: Unless you’re an optical physicist, you’ll likely start zoning out by the third minute of this five-minute video. Hang in there. The more apparent business applications are discussed starting in the last minute of this thing.

If you simply cannot endure the details about how this system conveys tons of product information, and senses where your camera is positioned and communicates that position to your camera, here’s a link to a more benefits-oriented video, from BBC’s outstanding technology bureau.

Assuming you’re like me, a marketing professional who cares about technology, I urge you to educate yourself on this advancement in cell-camera-enabled barcoding. It’s the beginning of a more robust way for us to gather information about the products and businesses we encounter.

Unless I’m mistaken, that is. I’d love to know what you think.

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It’s time we deliver great mobile web experiences

moonForty years after putting a human on the moon, we’re faced with the same question we had that day: Now what? My vote is not moon colonization, or sending people to Mars. No, let’s do something really challenging — but arguably far more beneficial. Let’s finally deliver stellar mobile web experience.

I’m proposing this in light of the new study that finds typical mobile web experiences excruciating. The user experience research firm Nielsen Norman Group reports today in their usability studies that the typical success rate for users completing tasks on the mobile Internet was just shy of 60 percent, compared to an average PC-based browser success rate of 80 percent.

Jakob Nielsen says of these findings: “The phrase ‘mobile usability’ is pretty much an oxymoron … [watching users] suffer during our user sessions reminded us of the very first usability studies we did with traditional websites in 1994.”

Improving mobile web experiences won’t be easy. But the returns in customer productivity and brand loyalty for businesses that hit the mark are huge.

Netflix understands the strong ROI of improved customer satisfaction

After three years, the Netflix Prize competition is coming to a triumphant close. This is where the online DVD rental company offered a $1 million reward to anyone who could improve its flawed Cinematch recommendation engine by at least 10 percent. Back when it started, I suggested one novel way that a competing team might improve results (hire a philosopher). We may never know all of the tricks employed by the likely winners.

And who might these winners be? A little over a week ago, the team called “BellKor’s Pragmatic Chaos” delivered a 10.05% improvement. The Netflix Prize competition has now declared “last call.” The other teams have thirty days to improve on the winning algorithm.

Two things strike me about this competition. The first is how difficult it is to predict our tastes in films. I’m frankly amazed that anyone is taking the prize. (Remember, teams have been trying for three solid years!)

The second and more important take-away is this: You can never be content with your present efforts to satisfy customers. They can always be improved — and they should be improved. Even when the cost is surprisingly steep.