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The 411 On 'QR' Codes

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Imagine waving a magic wand in front of a product -- from a big screen TV to a movie on the big screen --  and instantly getting all kinds of information about that item. 

That's essentially what many people have with their smart phones now, thanks to special technology that is a creating a booming trend, CBS 2's Mary Kay Kleist reports.

They're popping up everywhere, on business cards, magazines, movie posters. They are "QR" (or quick-response) codes -- those funky white-and-black boxes packed with tiny dots.

These things are the hottest new trend in marketing and social media.

"It's a lot like a bar code, except they're squares, and they store information in the black and white dots," Charles Jolley of Strobe, Inc. explains. "You can keep a lot of different things in there: telephone numbers, URLs, links to web sites, addresses, even photographs and any kind of text that you want."

Here's how it works. You download a free scanning "app" on your smart phone. Then just point the camera at the code. 

With more than half of America now using smart phones, it's an advertiser's dream. 

Danny Brewer notices them everywhere. 

"You see them on the train, you see them all over the place," he says.

Real estate attorney Allan Knowles has even seen them on "For Sale" signs. 

Potential buyers "can just walk up to that property, wave their cell phone in front of the QR code and call up instantly all the data concerning that property," he says.

Anyone can create a QR code for free. Just go to Google and search for a QR code maker.  You can put in any kind of information, and it will generate a code just for you. 

The U.S. is actually way behind on this technology.  The codes were created in Japan in 1994.  In that country, they're even being used in cemeteries to give information about people who have passed away.

In Chicago, the Art Institute uses them for marketing purposes. And, American Airlines uses QR codes for boarding passes.

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