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doi: 10.1227/NEU.0b013e318214ccad

Introducing QR Codes: Linking Print and Digital Content Via Smartphone

MacRae, Duncan A

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Managing Editor, Neurosurgery, Atlanta, Georgia

Correspondence: Duncan A. MacRae, Managing Editor, Neurosurgery, Atlanta, Georgia, E-mail:

Neurosurgery is proud to announce the introduction of Quick Response (QR) Code technology, linking print content and digital content in a revolutionary way. As featured on this issue's cover (April 2011), QR Codes are a form of matrix barcode, consisting of black modules arranged in a square pattern on a white background. In Neurosurgery, QR Codes are being used to connect the reader via Smartphone to related videos, figures or tables that would have previously required a desktop or laptop computer. Beginning with April 2011 issue of Neurosurgery, QR Codes will be used on an article's title page to both identify the availability and provide immediate access to supplemental digital content.

A video tutorial featuring Neurosurgery's usage of QR Codes is available at

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Step 1
Preparing Your Smartphone

To utilize QR Codes, most Smartphones will require the installation of a QR Code Reader application, which will use the Smartphone's built-in camera to scan and interpret the code. The good news is that most QR Code Reader applications are free and a variety are available for the most popular Smartphone platforms, ie, Apple iOS, Google Android and Blackberry. For our testing purposes we used a number of different QR Reader applications, including AT&TScanner (available on all platforms), RedLaser (available on Apple iOS) and CertainTeed (Google Android).

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Step 2
Locating the Code

An article with accessible supplemental digital content will have a clearly visible QR Code located on the article's title page. This content may be a video, figures or tables.

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Step 3
Scanning the QR Code

Each QR Code Reader application works in essentially the same way. An image is captured on the Smartphone by either taking a still frame picture, or more likely, by simply pointing the camera at the QR Code to be scanned. The application then identifies the link contained and asks the user to confirm. The Smartphone then uses metadata browser URI redirection capability to enable the Smartphone to send data to the appropriate installed application.

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Step 4
View and Share Digital Content

In the case of digital video, the Smartphone will launch a YouTube application. Playback will begin automatically. If an article has more than one associated video, the QR Code will link to a video playlist, providing the ability to choose from an inventory of available content. Supplemental figures will load via the Smartphone web browser. Both videos and figures can be shared with colleagues directly from the Smartphone, via email or by social media network.

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