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QR Codes For Memorials 127

Posted by samzenpus
from the last-message dept.
mikejuk writes "Companies in America, Denmark and the UK are adding QR codes to gravestones that can be used to view online memorials via smartphones. The idea is that these living headstones can include photographs, videos and memories of the dead person from family and friends. Genealogists and historians have always found graveyards a useful resource. If the QR idea takes hold memorials will be able to tell much more to future generations."
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QR Codes For Memorials

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  • EEEEEEE (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Mr. Kinky (2726685) on Monday September 10, 2012 @09:12AM (#41286783)

    If the QR idea takes hold memorials will be able to tell much more to future generations

    Yes, put obsolete technology there. Why not just put floppies?

    You don't need QR codes for that information anymore. Everything is saved anyway. You could just put the persons social security number there and all that information and much more would still be available.

    • Re:EEEEEEE (Score:5, Insightful)

      by aNonnyMouseCowered (2693969) on Monday September 10, 2012 @09:27AM (#41286907)

      The QR codes would only work as advertised if the "cloud" part of the system is still intact. Otherwise you'd have just some fancy hieroglyphics for future archaelogists to decipher. If this is the case, why not just carve out the human readable URL of the poor dude's FB/Twitter/G+ page.

      • by Culture20 (968837)
        Laser carve their photo and call it a day.
      • The QR codes would only work as advertised if the "cloud" part of the system is still intact.

        Not true. A QR code can contain a lot more than just a link. It could contain the deceased's name, identifying info, and links to more than one URL. Also, "the cloud" as it exists could disappear, and the QR code code be relinked to something else.

        Otherwise you'd have just some fancy hieroglyphics for future archaelogists to decipher.

        QR codes are not that difficult to decipher, even if you were starting from scratch. The are designed to provide info, not hide it. But since the specs [wikipedia.org] are publicly available and widely disseminated, I don't think anyone will be starting from scratch.

        If this is the case, why not just carve out the human readable URL of the poor dude's FB/Twitter/G+ page.

        Because

        • by Anonymous Coward

          Assuming one does not keep up the webpage, and domain, after one dies, the QR code might not do much good for long.

        • by Darinbob (1142669)

          QR codes carved into stone. Right now even 50 years later the normal carved letters start to wear, in 100 years you need to clean a gravestone to read it, in 200 years the letters are worn enough on many that they're difficult to read. People used to add photographs to gravestones, covered in glass or in ceramic, and those don't survive the test of time either.

          A QR code has a lot of very find detail, I just don't see it withstanding the elements for a long time. The most they will do for future historian

      • QR codes can encode any binary data. They don't need to store a URL to the "cloud". Just load the data into a QR code directly.
        • by julesh (229690)

          QR codes can encode any binary data.

          As long as it's shorter than about 3k. You're not going to get many "photographs, videos and memories of the dead person from family and friends" in that. You could actually engrave more text on a typical stone than that if you wanted to.

      • by jamesh (87723)

        If this is the case, why not just carve out the human readable URL of the poor dude's FB/Twitter/G+ page.

        Because a human readable link to goatse would be a dead giveaway, but with a QR code you might not know until it's too late!

      • by Meski (774546)

        The QR codes would only work as advertised if the "cloud" part of the system is still intact. Otherwise you'd have just some fancy hieroglyphics for future archaelogists to decipher..

        And perhaps the Egyptian's hieroglyphics were that generation's QR codes, but their cloud died. (Image of someone pointing Egyptian smartphone at a pyramid and seeing 404 on its display)

    • Re:EEEEEEE (Score:5, Insightful)

      by hairyfeet (841228) <bassbeast1968@NOsPAM.gmail.com> on Monday September 10, 2012 @09:50AM (#41287041) Journal

      I have one word for those that think this would be a good idea....Geocities? Anybody remember Geocities? people had their whole lives on those pages and guess what? Went tits up and bye bye all that work. Of course most people aren't web designers so it was a brightly colored nightmare, but hey, some people like gaudy crap.

      For these to work you have to have a "permanent cloud", we're talking centuries permanent, except the cloud is the biggest "her today, gone this afternoon" medium we have. if you want to do something like this what we need is the data embedded in the stone itself, hell putting a fricking flash stick in the rock would be a better idea than this, at least if you have it built in the rock, with it read only, it should last for decades if the person isn't rock star popular.

      TLDR? Stupid idea because it depends on something that never lasts.

      • I have one word for those that think this would be a good idea....Geocities?

        From the point of view of the business providing the website, it is a good idea. You can take the money and run because your customers are all dead!

        It is a pity that some cybersquatter has managed to nab deathmaskbook.com [deathmaskbook.com], because that would be the ideal domain name for the job.

        Gadget_Guy likes this post from beyond the grave.

      • I have one word for those that think this would be a good idea....Geocities?

        Poor analogy. Geocities was one company. QR codes are an international standard.

        except the cloud is the biggest "here today, gone this afternoon" medium we have.

        Are you serious? Post some nude pictures of your daughter, and let us know how ephemeral "the cloud" is. Her picture will probably still be available long after your gravestone has crumbled into dust. Individual sites may come and go, but "the cloud" as a whole will live on. The cloud is the most permanent and robust source of information that humanity has ever devised.

        • The cloud is the most permanent and robust source of information that humanity has ever devised.

          It's a just a little mind boggling that you can call something that is perhaps 50 years old 'permanent and robust'. Especially when it relies on continual functioning of an enormously complex pile of multiple technologies which require the most advanced technical and social system ever cobbled together by humans.

          Those who do not understand history are doomed to repeat it.

      • I have one word for those that think this would be a good idea....Geocities? Anybody remember Geocities?

        I remember Geocities -- that's the place where I can still view my old pages via the Internet Archive.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    If the QR idea takes hold memorials will be able to tell much more to future generations

    Or not, if these companies go out of business, which is extremely likely to happen in the next few decades or centuries.

    If you want to add additional data, encode it somehow and engrave it on the stone itself. And put an additional tablet in each graveyard explaining the encoding.

    • by h4rr4r (612664)

      Have the QR code be a link to your own website. Have a trust handle the hosting costs and provider.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward
        The point of headstones isn't to have information available for a few months or years, it's to have information available for centuries . The internet hasn't been around for very long compared to the headstones being used by Genealogists and historians, and there's no guarantee that it won't change completely in the next 20 years in such a way as to be unrecognizable. Carving a URL in stone for future historians a hundred years from now is as pointless as having the phone company list your address as "I
    • by Sarten-X (1102295)

      QR codes can store more data than just a website address. In addition to a URL, name, dates, and a brief biography are reasonable things to include in a large QR code. Future readers could get the website if it's still around (or archived somewhere, assuming the URL follows a suitable format), but even if that's unavailable they could still get more information than just a name.

      The problem here is that with more data included, the code's footprint will necessarily increase, or its details will get smaller.

      • by hawguy (1600213)

        QR codes can store more data than just a website address. In addition to a URL, name, dates, and a brief biography are reasonable things to include in a large QR code. Future readers could get the website if it's still around (or archived somewhere, assuming the URL follows a suitable format), but even if that's unavailable they could still get more information than just a name.

        The problem here is that with more data included, the code's footprint will necessarily increase, or its details will get smaller. One's ugly, and the other's more fragile.

        The capacity of a QR code sounded a little limiting to hold any kind of meaningful biography (4296 ASCII characters), but after looking around at some obituaries they seem to be mostly around 1200 characters long, the longest I could find in a brief search was only 3100 characters long.

        • by azadrozny (576352)
          When I first read the headline, I thought they were encoding an obituary of some kind, rather than just a web link. As other posters have pointed out, real data would likely stand the test of time, rather than a link to a server that may not exist in 5 years, let alone 500. This all got me thinking though, a QR code is nice, but I have seen many headstones with faded/eroded text, and some were only a 150 years old. For how long is the engraved granite or etched metal going to be readable? Should this in
          • a QR code is nice, but I have seen many headstones with faded/eroded text, and some were only a 150 years old. For how long is the engraved granite or etched metal going to be readable?

            Most marketing uses of QR codes use "level L" or "level M" error correction. Codes using these ECC levels can be read with 93% or 85% of the symbol intact respectively. But QR can also be configured with "level Q", such that the message can be reconstructed from 75% of the symbol. This results in a larger symbol (and thus smaller squares).

            Should this info also be buried with the body, or just under the headstone?

            Both. Engrave another copy of the symbol and bury it with the body.

      • by nschubach (922175)

        But could you imagine coming across a QR code as a historian and trying to figure out what it means?

        • by Sarten-X (1102295)

          As an appropriately-trained historian I'd record it according to the available technology of the day (probably at least a handheld 3D laser scanner, by the time QR codes are forgotten) and archive it. Elsewhere, another historian will find a specification for a QR code reader, and eventually a third historian will find both in some archives and make the connection, then some overworked grad student (or the future equivalent of slave labor) will actually write the decoder, and some other historian will take

          • Elsewhere, another historian will find a specification for a QR code reader, and eventually a third historian will find both in some archives and make the connection

            And to make this even easier, engrave a copy of this spec to store in each cemetery where this system is used.

      • by pnot (96038) on Monday September 10, 2012 @11:19AM (#41288037)

        QR codes can store more data than just a website address. In addition to a URL, name, dates, and a brief biography are reasonable things to include in a large QR code.

        But at that point you may as well write the brief biography in English, and save your descendants from having to figure out how to read a QR code.

        If our forebears had done this a hundred years ago, great-great-grandad's brief biography would be encoded on a bronze punch-card in an encoding nobody can find the documentation for. Text, on the other hand, has been working just fine for millenia.

        • by Sarten-X (1102295)
          QR codes are the right tool for the job. Whether the job itself needs doing is a different matter entirely.
          • by pnot (96038)

            QR codes are the right tool for the job. Whether the job itself needs doing is a different matter entirely.

            Well, that depends what you think "the job" is. If it's "letting little Suzie use her iphone to retrieve some kind of posthumous Facebook page for her late grandma, for the next five years or so", then yes.

            If it's any kind of long-term storage, then no. If it's encoding an actual potted biography rather than a URL, then absolutely no. We have an excellent encoding for that already; it's called the alphabet.

        • by vlm (69642)

          If our forebears had done this a hundred years ago, great-great-grandad's brief biography would be encoded on a bronze punch-card in an encoding nobody can find the documentation for. Text, on the other hand, has been working just fine for millenia.

          So encode in text instead of a zip file of a rar file of a par2 archive of a DRMed video codec.

          Amusingly enough as a "retrocomputing enthusiast" I can read paper tape and punch cards using Mark I Eyeball pretty well. I have to look up online at the numerous wikis and pdf documentation collections to remember exactly how it works for each media and device, but its no great challenge to reverse engineer given some raw material. If you think what amounts to the most trivial possible substitution code imagina

          • by pnot (96038)

            You have to realize the military cryptographers and DRM hackers are pretty good at pulling digital information outta sources when the source tries their best to stop them... given a dataset where no one is trying to stop them, your average cryptographer is just going to laugh at how easy it is.

            I'm sorry, perhaps I was unclear. I didn't mean that it would be an unbreakable code. I'm sure that future archaeologists will be able to reverse-engineer the QR codes. And I'm sure it would be an entertaining challenge for them.

            On the other hand, for the regular schmucks who just want to read great-grandpa's tombstone, it would be a ludicrous and utterly pointless inconvenience, since you could just write the text on the tombstone instead.

            So encode in text instead of a zip file of a rar file of a par2 archive of a DRMed video codec.

            Exactly. Except that by "encode in text", I mean "encode in text", n

        • save your descendants from having to figure out how to read a QR code.

          This sounds like a good "Brewster's Millions" move. Leave in your will a statement that says you have encoded the location of $10,000,000 and laugh from the grave as your greedy heirs try to figure it out...
    • by sam1am (753369)

      Or not, if these companies go out of business, which is extremely likely to happen in the next few decades or centuries.

      or years. or months.

    • If the QR idea takes hold memorials will be able to tell much more to future generations

      Or not, if these companies go out of business, which is extremely likely to happen in the next few decades or centuries.

      If you want to add additional data, encode it somehow and engrave it on the stone itself. And put an additional tablet in each graveyard explaining the encoding.

      Tombstones are horribly expensive. At present, i don't think the idea of being able to engrave a significant amount of data into the stone itself is practical.

      It seems to me that you might be better off with a different solution. An RFID style passive tag that is actually part of the coffin might be good. Currently availbe technology would allow you to encode a reasonable amount of data including a low-res photo. It would also be useful in cases where the coffin floated to the top in a flood and got

      • by Imagix (695350)

        An RFID style passive tag that is actually part of the coffin might be good.

        Hmm... probably not the coffin. That's under about 6 ft of dirt and enclosed in a cement box. RFID is pretty weak....

      • by vlm (69642)

        Tombstones are horribly expensive. At present, i don't think the idea of being able to engrave a significant amount of data into the stone itself is practical.

        Don't confuse the "death industry" which sucks as much money as possible out of grieving people with technological limitations and actual economic issues.

        Ask a machinist how much a substandard (by machinist standards, aka less smooth than a front surface mirror, etc) granite surface plate would cost, or perhaps a home center big box store how much the cutout for the sink in a granite counter top costs. Then talk to some engravers. Be careful because they also tend to price aspirationally, so if a bridesma

  • by pnot (96038) on Monday September 10, 2012 @09:17AM (#41286827)

    If the QR idea takes hold memorials will be able to tell much more to future generations.

    Uh huh. How many future generations? For how long are QR codes going to be a popular format, and for how long are these companies going to be around?

    • by h4rr4r (612664)

      QR codes may not be popular for long, but they are easy enough to build a program to read. Do you really think future humans will be carrying around weaker computers than we are now?

      The company being around is not that important considering you can store ~2KB in a QR code.

      • by Minwee (522556) <dcr@neverwhen.org> on Monday September 10, 2012 @10:04AM (#41287145) Homepage

        QR codes may not be popular for long, but they are easy enough to build a program to read. Do you really think future humans will be carrying around weaker computers than we are now?

        The company being around is not that important considering you can store ~2KB in a QR code.

        Wonderful. Future humans with their amazingly powerful computers will be able to decipher such amazing messages as "http://www.qr-memories.co.uk/memorials4less/115223/b11235/4.gif".

        Through sufficiently advanced technology, future generations may eventually use that message to discover that their great uncle Leon's favourite number was 404.

        • Sorry man, my mod points expired this morning, or it bump this. Yeah, carving a link into stone seems like the height of absurdity given the transient nature of the web. "404 not found" is likely to be of less use to genealogists and historians than the summary seems to suggest.

        • Even better, imagine the family's mortification when this happens: http://www.pcworld.com/article/87824/porn_sites_hijack_expired_domain_names.html [pcworld.com]

          New business opportunity: headstone QR code removal service.

    • by gman003 (1693318) on Monday September 10, 2012 @10:18AM (#41287275)

      More to the point, how long are QR codes on a tombstone going to be readable?

      When I visited England, I visited several churches and graveyards. Some of them were barely legible, after sitting out in the rain (and acid rain) for centuries. I know QR codes have a lot of error correction on them, but are they going to be readable after 1cm of stone has eroded away?

    • Exactly. I wonder what an archaeologist will think of the QR codes when they dig up one of these headstones in a few thousand years?
      The text might still be comprehensible to some scholars, but I doubt the website backing the QR codes will still be live.

    • by Bigby (659157)

      It would be far easier and less costly to just use GPS and OCR on the tombstone to find a best match. Or present a list based on GPS.

      But let's spend a bunch of money we don't need to spend...

  • +5 Monday Morning (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Looks like I chose the wrong week to try and avoid stupidity.

    This is the stupidest idea I've heard since Friday. I must be reading Slashdot again.

  • R.I.P (Score:1, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Thus, behold, all that will be on my tombstone
    8=======D ~~~~ ( . )( . )

    • Thus, behold, all that will be on my tombstone 8=======D ~~~~ ( . )( . )

      Man, what a dick!

  • by ljhiller (40044) on Monday September 10, 2012 @09:26AM (#41286899)
    Get the best deals on:
    Cars
    Mortgages
    Viagra
    This website www . eternalmemories . com is available. (C) 2015 Godaddy.com

    Nothing is so impermanent as an online web service.

  • On the Plus side, it'll save space in crowded cemeteries, as they won't need so much space to list the Dearly Departed. Particularly, in mausoleums, and content can be changed and updated as needed without costly stone replacements.

    The bad news is, a memorial wall of nondescript QR codes will mean the non-technologically equipped will see nothing more than a bewildering array of QRs, and can't pinpoint their loved ones name.

    Even worse: the dearly departed can have their web-ghost hacked by the unscrupulous,

    • by Bieeanda (961632)
      Stone replacements? Saving space? You really have no idea what you're talking about, do you?
  • by Anonymous Coward

    So why not just put the whole information IN the gravestone itself as a bunch of base64-encoded images? ...or just plain text?. There are some QR formats that allow such things, no need to host the damn thing on the interwebs anyway. Anything you'd want in 1264 characters or less (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/QR_code#Design)

    In any case, I see this as a very short-lived experiment. Why don't they just carve a portrait of the person and a short bio on the back of the stone and let *them* figure it out after N

  • by Kell Bengal (711123) on Monday September 10, 2012 @09:30AM (#41286933)
    Last post!
  • It's not the zombies you need to worry about, it's the post-mortem trolling.

  • by jbeaupre (752124)

    Might as well slap an RFID tag on while you're at it. Or an E-Ink display (solar powered, natch).

    Seriously. Who's wandering around cemeteries going "Gee, if I only had detailed biographical information on this random dead dude?" I thought the accepted practice was to visit dead people you knew about.

    • by gman003 (1693318)

      Also, looking for stupid and/or awesome names. Eg. a certain "Manley Powers", died in the 16th century IIRC.

    • by vlm (69642)

      Who's wandering around cemeteries going "Gee, if I only had detailed biographical information on this random dead dude?"

      They're called genealogists. All I really know about my G-G-G-G-Grannie is where she's buried, so ... yeah that would be me/us. Its a fun life long hobby. It can tend to be a bit of a grind, much some psuedo-RPG computer games have quests like "gimme 50 wolf pelts" some genealogists spend inordinate amounts of time collecting ancient census records or pictures of gravestones or whatever.

      You know whats really freaky? I've got 30 year old digitized pictures of gravestones that were barely readable then an

  • I mean, just check this out! Updated daily!

    http://picturesofpeoplescanningqrcodes.tumblr.com/ [tumblr.com]

  • They are absolute wastes of land. You have acres of land tied up around here for 100+ year old graves that absolutely no one ever visits.

    Grave sites are only for the living who just lost someone, which I understand. But, how often are they visited by those who have had someone pass?
    • First I get to take over your land because I don't think you deserve it.

      Then you get to take over all the graveyards.

    • I agree. Not only that, but it's really best to just "let go" and not provide the living with a compelling reason to go back to a site to grieve yet again. As strange as it sounds, I find that people have an easier time with an urn of ashes setting on a shelf in the home someplace. It's always there, and yet people don't grieve as much. Or so that's always been my impression.

  • Here Lies Paiute
    [citation needed]
  • Future/Alien Archeologists are going to have a field day trying to decipher those.

  • QR codes are extremely unlikely to persist any longer than ten years. If you've programmed a point-of-sale system like me you probably know that there are more coding schemes for barcodes than you can shake a stick at. QR codes are just the current encoding fad that will soon be replaced by something better.

  • After I'm gone you want to place a QR code on my gravestone?

    Over my dead body.
  • by xtal (49134) on Monday September 10, 2012 @10:50AM (#41287669)

    A referral to an online service is pretty stupid for a long-term idea. Nobody will care in 100 years.

    What IS neat is QR codes can store information directly, in a standard format, that can be manually decoded BY HAND if you have to. This is useful for "the long haul". Most people are not aware there are different sizes of QR codes, and the standard encoding can hold a kilobyte or so of information.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/QR_code [wikipedia.org]

    Etching the QR code on the stone is not ideal. If I wanted it to last very long time, I'd look at using a gold or platinum protective film (perferably coated as to not look valuable) with the QR code lithographically etched onto an aluminum plate, or something along those lines.

    A more interesting idea would be the design of a long-life semiconductor that could flash out a message in morse code. I think it'd be feasible to design something that would remain functional for 100 years or more with current technology. Maybe more with descretes, and if you didn't want to have an onboard power source like a small solar cell / gold ultracapacitor.

    For really long term, it has to be decodable by hand or with the information on the device.

    Mortality is a bitch.

  • This won't come for free. There are many parties involved in a funeral, they're all businesses to some extent or another, and they all have they're hand out, looking to meet their revenue needs. Since TFA talks about QR codes on headstones, this sounds localized to the cemetery/mausoleum. They have physical control, so they would be the managing party, even if they contracted the job out.

    So the costs of this idea are a web server setup, possibly wireless access, etc. I would guess that they would be run

  • ... The Cloud. Once, we trusted it as the repository of our knowledge and history. But it, and its safekeeping are no longer with us.

    Lovingly scratched on a rock, by the light of a tallow candle.

  • A QR code can hold less than 3 kilobytes. You might be able to squeeze a few pages of text, but anything more data-intensive than that, you'll have to put in a URL or some such that points to it. And how long will that be good?

  • http://www.memorymedallion.com/ [memorymedallion.com] (I bought one for my Mother In Law's headstone) puts a portion of the monies into an escrow account to keep the servers running. I'm happy with the service and customer support.

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