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Avo Reid

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Microsoft and Object Hyperlinking

January 06, 2009

Microsoft has entered into the world of Object Hyperlinking, sometimes referred to as Physical World Hyperlinking, with its announcement of the Beta of  Microsoft Tag, at CES.  


The purpose of Object Hyperlinking is to link objects in the physical world to the information on the internet much like digital hyperlinks on web pages are linked to information on the internet. “Object Hyperlinks transform physical media (print advertising, billboards,product packages, information signs, in-store merchandising, or even video images)—into live links for accessing information and entertainment online.”


Object Hyperlinking is achieved by attaching tags, usually special barcodes that contain URLs, to real world objects and using these URLs to hyperlink to information or media on the internet. For mobile devices tags can be read by snapping a picture of it and then either using special software or standard messaging capabilities to send the picture to a URL or web service.  The information or URL on the tag is read by the web service and the device is linked to information about object and displayed.


Object Hyperlinking is not a new concept, in fact it has been in vogue for awhile in Japan where 41.7% of users say that if an advertisement catches their eye they will use the Object Hyperlink to request more information.



Object Hyperlink tags are usually made of black and white matrix codes ( QRCodes or Dotmatrix codes ) that can store up to 4296 characters of information in a code of 1.25 inches square. Plenty of characters to encode a URL with parameters for a web service and small enough to fit into the corner of an advertisement or CD sleeve for example.


QR Code data capacity

Numeric only

Max. 7,089 characters


Max. 4,296 characters

Binary (8 bits)

Max. 2,953 bytes


Max. 1,817 characters



Microsoft Research has introduced High Capacity Color Barcodes (HCCBs) designed to work more effectively with the limited cameras that now come standard on most mobile phones. Using advanced image-processing techniques Microsoft Tag software can decode even out-of-focus barcode images, which is important with the fixed-focus camera lenses common in most mobile devices.

HCCBs provide more information in less space by using different symbol shapes in geometric patterns and multiple colors rather than the black and white matrix approach.




Matrix versus HCBB





The possibilities for Object Hyperlinks are endless, aim the camera at the Tag—it is instantly recognized and you are whisked directly to the linked content. Applications for further information on print or video advertisements, comparing prices at the store on products (links to Froogle), buying tickets for shows directly from the ad poster, finding other movies or albums of an artist from video or cd packaging, or retrieving readable directions from the back of a medicine bottle, to name a few.



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