Pinterest’s object-recognizing Lens feature now scans QR codes, too

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Holy #@!%$, QR codes are a thing again.

Snapchat’s spin on the QR code has popularized the bar code’s ugly offspring to the point that Facebook’s Messenger, Kik, Spotify and others have adopted their own versions. Now Pinterest is making its in-app, object-recognizing Lens feature able to scan QR codes. Because apparently, in 2017, being able to scan clothes and furniture isn’t cool enough.

Laughable as QR codes are have always been, Pinterest extending Lens to QR codes is a serious move. The second-biggest problem with QR codes — the first being that they’re an eyesore — is that, while brands could put them anywhere, people usually had to download special apps to scan them. Maybe Pinterest can fix that.

Pinterest doesn’t break out its mobile user numbers, but more than likely a solid chunk of the 175 million people that use Pinterest every month access the search-slash-social platform via its mobile app. So now maybe marketers stand a better chance of people scanning the QR codes on their products’ packaging to open a how-to page on the brand’s site. As ridiculous as QR codes are, scanning them is nowhere near as ridiculous as expecting people to type in a 23-character URL.

Lens can scan any standard QR code (not the proprietary versions introduced by Snapchat, Messenger, Kik and others) that require people to have downloaded the corresponding apps. But the QR code must open a web page when scanned, according to a Pinterest spokesperson.

And to make it more likely that people use Lens, Pinterest is adopting another odd piece of technology: Apple’s 3D Touch feature. Now people who own iPhones or iPads that let them press down on the screen to reveal secret menus can press down on Pinterest’s app icon to pull up a menu that lets them tap to open directly to Lens. Doing this reduces the time it takes to access Lens when you want to scan someone’s shoes as they’re walking by. Of course, if Pinterest really wanted to reduce the friction, it would redesign its app open to the in-app camera or make the in-app camera one swipe away from the home screen, but then Pinterest isn’t owned by Facebook.

And to make Lens more navigable when people do use it, Pinterest is adding what it’s calling “visual guides.” These visual guides are meant to make it easier for people to use Lens when scanning a photo that features multiple objects, like a head-to-toe outfit or an entire room. After scanning, say, your living room, Lens will now display thumbnails of specific objects that it recognized above an initial set of pins that may better match the room as a whole than any one thing in it. If a person wants to home in on a lamp, they can tap the lamp’s thumbnail, and the results will repopulate with pins of similar lamps.

If the adoption of QR Codes and 3D Touch isn’t bewildering enough — at least initially, they make much more sense after the laughter stops — Pinterest has promoted its head of discovery engineering, Vanja Josifovski, to be the company’s first chief technology officer, though the CTO won’t necessarily be in absolute charge of Pinterest’s technology. The majordomo of Pinterest’s technology division remains its head of engineering, Li Fan, to whom Josifovski will report. After leading Pinterest’s Lens, search and related pins teams in his former role, Josifovski will now oversee the company’s machine learning, search and infrastructure work.

About The Author

Tim Peterson, Third Door Media’s Social Media Reporter, has been covering the digital marketing industry since 2011. He has reported for Advertising Age, Adweek and Direct Marketing News. A born-and-raised Angeleno who graduated from New York University, he currently lives in Los Angeles. He has broken stories on Snapchat’s ad plans, Hulu founding CEO Jason Kilar’s attempt to take on YouTube and the assemblage of Amazon’s ad-tech stack; analyzed YouTube’s programming strategy, Facebook’s ad-tech ambitions and ad blocking’s rise; and documented digital video’s biggest annual event VidCon, BuzzFeed’s branded video production process and Snapchat Discover’s ad load six months after launch. He has also developed tools to monitor brands’ early adoption of live-streaming apps, compare Yahoo’s and Google’s search designs and examine the NFL’s YouTube and Facebook video strategies.


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