You are reading one of the 12 TRENDS FOR 2012. Read all 12 trends here »


2012 will be about instant visual information gratification.

With textual search and textual information now being available to most people most of the time, the race is on to add a (useful) real world element – and by ‘real world’ we mean the world of objects and people.

2012 will see a mix of the known (Apps! Augmented Reality!) and the very known (QR codes!) bringing information about the objects (and even people) that consumers encounter in the real world instantly. And like some other trends, it’s the rise of the (always-in-my-pocket) smartphone that will fuel full-blown POINT & KNOW in the next 12 months. After all, the need and expectation for instant information and instant access to everything one wants to know, is already deeply ingrained in the SEE-HEAR-BUY consumer. Use POINT & KNOW in a practical fashion: adding depth of knowledge, communicating stories, origins, price comparisons, reviews, ecommerce and so on, or by all means, just have some fun with it!


  • Google Goggles is a free image recognition app which enables users to search based on photographs taken with a handheld device. By taking pictures of objects, places or product barcodes, users can find out further information.

  • Released in November 2011, the Amazon Flow app enables users to access information about products– and purchase them– using image recognition. In addition to books, music and film, many household products can also be recognized.

  • Oh, and will 2012 finally see the tipping point for QR codes, the granddaddy of POINT & KNOW technologies? They're everywhere now, and thanks to smartphones, consumers may finally be warming up to them too. In September 2011, Ralph Lauren introduced customized QR codes in its stores, featuring the retailer's signature polo player logo. By scanning them, customers could win tickets to the US Open tennis tournament or purchase products on the Ralph Lauren M-Commerce site. Other luxury brands, like Louis Vuitton, are beautifying their QR codes too. Hey, and once even luxury brands are on the e-bandwagon... ;-)
  • In October 2011, Starbucks unveiled a QR code promotion designed to educate consumers about its mobile payments app and its coffee.
  • Canadian shoe designer John Fluevog’s 'Ask Clogs' collection incorporates QR codes into the sole of each shoe. The codes links to a video of that specific item being produced – from the first stages of manufacturing to in-store.

  • Open during October 2011, The eBay Inspiration Shop in New York was the result of a collaboration between marketplace website eBay, US designer Jonathan Adler and a selection of ‘tastemakers’ such as celebrities, editors, bloggers and stylists. The virtual storefront displayed a range of electronic, fashion and automotive products, and to purchase items instantly, shoppers had to download eBay's mobile application and scan a QR code.

  • leafsnap is a free app that utilizes visual recognition technology to enable users to identify various species of tree by taking photographs of leaves.
  • WeBIRD allows anyone with a smartphone to record a bird’s call, submit it wirelessly to a server and (after a few seconds) receive a positive ID on the species of bird. WeBIRD hopes to be available to the public in time for the spring migration in 2012.
  • Popular mobile music application Shazam (which offers music recognition software that enables users to identify any track they hear, wherever they are, share it and/or buy it), saw a 100% increase in downloads of the app each week in the twelve months preceding June 2011, with over 125 million users tagging four million songs every day. In September 2011, Shazam also announced that more than USD 100 million was spent each year on digital music via the app. Also check out similar service Midomi SoundHound, which is partnering with Spotify.

  • Created by Carnegie Mellon University, PittPatt is a facial recognition tool that enables users to find individuals from photographs or videos. The face detection software can locate human faces and match them up with photographs from Facebook and Google Images, identifying individuals in under 60 seconds. PittPatt, still in development, was acquired by Google in July 2011. Scary? Perhaps. Interesting? Definitely.