Expand your horizons

by Andy Bryenton

Technology has brought the world into our homes in a way, which we could not have envisioned even thirty years ago. While the promises of the tech guru of the 1980s — robot butlers, flying cars, immortality — may be pipe dreams, for now, information technology has exceeded our wildest expectations.

It’s even gotten to the point where your local newspaper can become truly interactive. Many of us carry a smartphone in our pockets, and through this medium, we can have full access to a massive store of information. In fact, your phone is now hundreds of times more powerful than the computers used to control NASA’s moon missions and can access more information than the sum of every book ever written, all stacked up. Of course, we largely use this incredible power for playing games or looking at pictures of humorous cats.

There’s another trick waiting to be unlocked. On the pages around this story, you’ll see many curiously shaped square ‘barcodes’. These so-called QR codes can be scanned by your phone to unlock videos, facts, photos, reviews and facebook pages, letting you get much more out of a story or advert — for free!

To use them, open your mobile phone, and enable mobile data — then go to the iTunes Store (Apple Users) or Google Play Store (Android/Samsung users). Search for ‘QR Code reader’ — this is a FREE download of a small program, which should install quickly. It will place a new app icon on your phone — ‘QR code reader’. Open this, and scan one of those handy codes, centring it in the ‘crosshairs,’ which show up on screen. You will hear a beep, and then be directed to extra content such as images, videos and online reviews to dig deeper into a topic or find out more about a local business. You can even sometimes use a QR link from an ad to shop online and then go to the store and pick up your purchase!