Quick Response (QR) codes - the box-shaped symbols that appear on signs and posters - may be used to securely display 3D images on your phone, even without involving the often-untrustworthy internet, scientists say.
QR codes are a convenient and efficient way of accessing specific web pages with a smartphone or other mobile device.
By adding an array of tiny lenses to an ordinary smartphone, a team of optical engineers from the University of Connecticut has found a way to securely display three-dimensional (3D) images by simply scanning a series of QR codes - without ever accessing the internet.
This data storage and display scheme could have exciting implications for personal 3D entertainment, product visualisations for manufacturing and marketing, and secure 3D data storage and transmission, researchers said.
"We have developed a method of using QR codes along with off-the-shelf mobile device technology such as smartphones to enable encrypted 3D information to be securely displayed on mobile devices," said Bahram Javidi, the project team leader and co-author on the paper.
"The QR codes we developed store compressed and encrypted images, which can be easily scanned, decrypted, and decompressed by commercial smartphones for secure 3D visual communication," said Javidi.
Through their research, the engineers also addressed an intrinsic security flaw with QR codes.
Currently, if a link to a website is stored in the QR code, a smartphone will automatically link to that website and access the data stored there, but that website may contain malicious programming.
"In our proposed method, we store self-contained slices of data in the QR codes themselves. It's then possible to receive and visualise 3D images without using the internet," Javidi said.
The process of storing and encoding the images is done by first selecting the primary image to be visualised. This could be either a single 3D object, like a car or household object, or an entire 3D scene.
The study was published in The Optical Society's (OSA) journal Optica.