Comments on: My new quest – replacing QR codes with tartan Ethan Zuckerman’s online home, since 2003 Thu, 31 May 2018 07:56:57 +0000 hourly 1 By: chris Sat, 24 Mar 2012 14:50:41 +0000 I’m wondering if there is a way to reverse the process a bit. I already have lots of flannel’s i like. If i could take a picture of the basic pattesrn, teach a program to recognize it and then “tag” it with my own url that would be awesome. people could then later interact with the pattern a lo QR codes.

I think this would create quite a rush to adopt the technology as people race to tag their existing shirts.

It might also allow for some interesting activism going to stores like the gap and tagging their shirts.

By: John Leavitt Thu, 22 Dec 2011 16:46:03 +0000 Btw, the tartanmaker strings are just base64 coded. For example:


decodes to:


bands are:

#566B00 with a width a 5
#000000 with a width of 6
#4497A6 with a width of 2

thread size is 2

and the tartan is displayed diagonally (change t to 1 for horizontal)

By: John Leavitt Thu, 22 Dec 2011 16:30:06 +0000 I’m a little confused by your calculation. 64 widths of 24 colors gives you 1536 combinations (~10 bits per stripe), but the total number of bits for 24 stripes would be 240 bits, giving you 30 characters to work with. Going to a full 216 colors gives you 13 or so bits per stripe, for 39 characters. can represent 62^6 values which is only about 36 bits. If we allow 8 widths and 8 colors, we get 6 bits per stripe and can represent 36 bits in 6 stripes. We can go up to 8 stripes to allow for not knowing the starting point or the direction (phone might be upside down). And we go up to 10 colors to guarantee that an given stripe doesn’t match the ones on either side. But 10 colors with 8 widths and 8 stripes should handle fine and be phone readable I would think.

Of course without the additional stripes and widths, the result may well be back to being ugly (much like Microsoft’s Tag barcodes, which are hideous).

Honestly, without some restrictions, it is the widths that concern me more than the colors. How can my phone tell a 1-2-1-2 etc. from 3-6-3-6 etc. without a baseline of some sort?

By: J. Nathan Matias Wed, 21 Dec 2011 23:41:53 +0000 See also SnapTags, which use a code ring and leave space in the centre open for an aesthetically pleasing design (or brand).

By: Sunday Miscellanea | Then again, I might be wrong Sun, 18 Dec 2011 06:10:34 +0000 […] An interesting post on QR codes and tartan. […]

By: Ethan Sat, 17 Dec 2011 23:54:16 +0000 Very cool, Grace. Hope you’ll come over to our group and tell us about what you’ve learned.

By: Grace Woo Sat, 17 Dec 2011 22:10:08 +0000 @Edward @Nathan Travis pointed me over to this blog post and I heard about this concept through other means. I’ve actually started a lot of work writing decoders (in android, actionscript) which process markers in a screen. It’s tough but completely doable. Travis and I worked on a project which did a superset of whats there:

I started to conceptualize some new thoughts around that project recently and was super excited coming across this

By: Ethan Sat, 17 Dec 2011 01:02:56 +0000 Nathan, I _was_ secretly hoping you might write something that decoded the strings Tartanmaker uses and write an algorithm to translate from base 62 to tartan. But I like the idea of bringing it even further into reality with Spoonflower.

Edward, I wonder what the color sensitivity of different cameras is. Microsoft is promoting some sort of MR code that uses multiple colors – how many colors could we support and still be easily machine readable?

By: Edward Z. Yang Sat, 17 Dec 2011 00:57:39 +0000 One concern I might have is that tartan codes would be much harder to write software which processes it (QR codes, being monochrome and extremely regular, are reasonably easy to write for.)

By: J. Nathan Matias Sat, 17 Dec 2011 00:55:05 +0000 Wonderful!

If we’re going to ask Tartanmaker to produce an API, we might as well also try to convince the print-on-demand fabric company Spoonflower to develop an API as well, so we can have print on demand Civic Tartan.