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The Wolfram|Alpha Team

Wolfram|Alpha Becomes Scannable with QR Codes

March 31, 2011 —
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By now, you’ve probably noticed those cute black and white squares popping up on everything from T-shirts to magazine advertisements to cereal boxes. These are called Quick Response (QR) codes, and thanks to the rise in smartphone use, they are becoming more popular than ever.

Scan these codes with a QR reader

Scan these codes with a QR reader Scan these codes with a QR reader

Since their inception in 1994 in Japan, QR codes have quickly risen in popularity throughout many Asian countries. The technology is still finding its footing in the United States and other western countries, but many advertisers and niche communities are adapting the 2D barcode innovation. Flip open your favorite magazine and you will most likely see the stamp-like code on multiple advertisements.

Wolfram|Alpha now offers the capability to produce QR codes. Just type in “QR code” in addition to whatever information you want to be coded. The function can encode up to 7 KB of data, including phone numbers, email addresses, URLs, or just plain text.

For example, you could create a code that shares your business information.

QR code: Jenny Doe, 867-5309

Once the QR code is created, embed it into your personal website, email it to your business clients, or print it out on your business cards. They then can be scanned by smartphones or computer applications.

Or say you’re a retailer trying to sell a product. Add a QR code to an advertisement as a quick link to an online store where your product can be purchased.

Scan this code with a QR reader

What other uses can you find for QR codes? Share some examples in the comments.


Can you use this for structured data such as a VCF of contact information, or just for raw text?

Posted by Stephen Shankland March 31, 2011 at 10:01 am

    Yes but only some devices handle it properly.

    Posted by Josh Fleming March 31, 2011 at 2:11 pm

That is just awesome,I was really watching for a day to produce QR codes easily
thanks to you….

Posted by amir moeen rahmani March 31, 2011 at 10:10 am

“Can you use this for structured data such as a VCF of contact information, or just for raw text?”

You can put any kind of data, “data structure” is just a point of view from the reader. The technology itself is ignorant.

Posted by JB March 31, 2011 at 11:09 am

It is amazing, Thank you..

Posted by Joud Kharrat March 31, 2011 at 12:16 pm

How can you put 7kb of data wolfram alpha? I’ve been trying to test that, but the text box only takes so much.

Posted by vcarl March 31, 2011 at 1:00 pm

A QR code may be able to contain up to 7KB, but the Wolfram Alpha input box will not allow anywhere near 7K characters! I just tried to encode the text of the Gettysburg Address – a mere 1.4K – in a QR code, but the input box cuts it off at “Now we are eng” at the start of the second sentence. It looks like the input box is limited to 200 characters.

Posted by Qoheleth March 31, 2011 at 1:09 pm

What about the other way around? Taking a QR picture and translate it into plain text?

Posted by User0815 April 1, 2011 at 4:19 am

In the preamble you say put
QR code
in front of the text your example uses
QR code:
and the input interpretation gives
QR code|
I suggest the WA Team adopt the approach that they are part of Wolfram Alpha and that their manual contrbutions should be entirely consistent with W|A itself. I|

Posted by Brian Gilbert April 5, 2011 at 4:42 am

Medical dogtags would be a no-brainer. Indecent proposals on T-shirts at a singles bar. Vulgar bumper stickers.

Posted by Fred Klingener April 6, 2011 at 12:18 am

Any way to access the Mathematica function which is running to produce the QR code ?

Posted by Yves Papegay April 6, 2011 at 12:37 am

I thought that you are generating QR codes for the stuff we search or enter.
It would be much more usable…..

Posted by mrid April 7, 2011 at 3:14 am

As always, I’m way behind the rest of the world. Try Googling “dog tags QR Code.” The engraved stainless ones would be pretty nifty if we can persuade the local ambulance crew and the hospital administrators to have readers handy.

In the meantime, I can use W|A to make up a strip with vital information for my medical ID cap.

I hope the response to QR codes is enthusiastic enough to persuade W|A to continue development. is the obvious first next step. At least or .

Posted by Fred Klingener April 7, 2011 at 3:44 pm

Here is the Mathematica code to generate a QR barcode:

WolframAlpha[ “QRcode:” ToString[N[Pi, 192]] “”, {{“QRCodeBarcode”, 1}, “Content”}]

The number of characters encoded is 194 in this example. This seems to be the maximum that can send to W|A not 7000 as the blog states.

Posted by Sjoerd de Vries April 8, 2011 at 9:01 am

Wish there was a way for elementary students to access these. My students don’t have smart phones, too young. But they would enjoy a QR reader and access lessons or creating lessons using QR codes.

Posted by Terri Reh April 24, 2011 at 11:44 pm