Researchers at MIT have developed an alternative to the 35 year old barcode which also adds some extra features. Dubbed the ‘Bokode,’ a spoonerism of the word bokeh, which describes the out of focus circles in photographs, and barcode, the new technology allows much more information than can be contained in a barcode to be read at a greater distance.The system works by diffusing the light from an LED which is shone through a bokode pattern and then a collimator which forces the light rays to be parallel. A section of the bokode pattern can then be viewed when a camera which is focussed to infinity is pointed at the bokode. Data can then be read from the pattern. Further to identification, since the camera only sees a small portion of the pattern, angular information can be obtained from the bokode. This allows the system to guess at the object’s orientation relative to the camera.
While traditional barcodes must be read from at most a foot away, the team from MIT have demonstrated that their bokodes can be read from four metres away and could theoretically be read from up to 20 metres away. Currently, bokodes are quite expensive at $5 each but a prototype exists which does not require an LED but uses the camera’s flash and a cross polariser to achieve the same effect.
The video below explains the process more clearly.