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Camera Phones Read Hidden Messages in Print

CowboyNeal posted more than 7 years ago | from the go-go-gadget-decoder dept.

Handhelds 126

pikine writes "As reported by BBC News, Fujitsu has developed a technology that encodes 12-bytes of information in a printed picture by skewing yellow hue, which is difficult to discern by human eye but fairly easy for camera phones to decode using software written in Java." The first target uses are promotional contests and competitions, not entirely unlike those game pieces that need to be viewed through a colored filter.

cancel ×

126 comments

Anyone remember Digital Convergence? (3, Insightful)

plover (150551) | more than 7 years ago | (#18034172)

I hope their business plan calls for Fujitsu to give away decoders like Digital Convergence did with :CueCats.

But serioiusly, did anyone ever use a :CueCat for its business-intended purpose? Even once would be remarkable. I have no idea why someone would waste time trying this with a cell-phone, unless they were already a geek -- and then they'd be busy trying to find ways to hack it, not to use it.

Re:Anyone remember Digital Convergence? (3, Informative)

slash.dt (701002) | more than 7 years ago | (#18034454)

This is software and will work with any digital camera - though you would want to use a web-enabled device like your cellphone so that you can go to the link. So there is no need for dedicated hardware.

Re:Anyone remember Digital Convergence? (1)

robaal (1019298) | more than 7 years ago | (#18034476)

...easy for camera phones to decode...

Low-end vs. high-end phones (2, Insightful)

tepples (727027) | more than 7 years ago | (#18034750)

...easy for camera phones to decode...
Most low-end prepaid cell phones that I have seen in stores in my part of the United States do not include a digital camera. Therefore, Fujitsu would have to either 1. market this technology to advertisers trying to reach people with high-end phones, or 2. deploy more camera phones.

Re:Low-end vs. high-end phones (1)

robaal (1019298) | more than 7 years ago | (#18035032)

...easy for camera phones to decode...
Most low-end prepaid cell phones that I have seen in stores in my part of the United States do not include a digital camera. Therefore, Fujitsu would have to either 1. market this technology to advertisers trying to reach people with high-end phones, or 2. deploy more camera phones.
Unless it's vastly different in the US, I'm pretty sure you'd get some camera-phone nearly-free with a contract. I believe separate, basic, camera-phones aren't prohibitively priced either.

It's not like these are only high-end models - I think it's rarer for a mobile phone to come without a camera nowadays.

Re:Low-end vs. high-end phones (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 7 years ago | (#18035174)

Unless it's vastly different in the US, I'm pretty sure you'd get some camera-phone nearly-free with a contract.
In the US, a lot of people don't have $720 for a 24-month contract, even if it is paid $30 at a time, especially if the carrier locks out a lot of the phone's features (such as the use of an affordable data cable and the use of freeware MIDlets).

Re:Low-end vs. high-end phones (1)

CellBlock (856082) | more than 7 years ago | (#18035618)

Just got a new contract from Cingular, and I got a Motorola L6 for $50 with a $50 MIR (so, basically free), and it's got no lock on the features (that I've noticed).

It's data port is mini-USB, so I can use any cable that fits the port as a data cable, like that mini-USB cable that comes with just about every digital camera anymore. (Or maybe not anymore, actually, what with cameras using SD cards and the like.)

Anyway, with the Motorola software (which isn't technically free, but there are freeware/shareware versions floating around, or at least some trials), and any mini-USB cable, I can dick around with my phone, and even use it as a cellular modem.

Sure, maybe I'm paying $50 a month for my phone, but if I didn't have the money, I wouldn't have the phone. By looking around and seeing how just about every jackass is loudly going on about their latest drunken escapade or embarassing medical condition, I think most people can afford a cell phone.

Re:Low-end vs. high-end phones (1)

sisinka (916373) | more than 7 years ago | (#18035964)

Most, even low-end and prepaid, cell phones do have at least lame cameras in my part of Europe, even the post-communist, IMO. And, some U.S. expats I've met here care much less about their phones compared to Europeans. (Not talking about Asia or Japan - now here I'm just guessing.)

Re:Low-end vs. high-end phones (2, Informative)

jamar0303 (896820) | more than 7 years ago | (#18036600)

In Japan almost every phone sold is a cameraphone (only a couple of mid-range phones are sold with a cameraless version, mainly on their CDMA carrier, KDDI) and a barcode system called QR code has been in place for a long time that does what this is supposed to do (except that it was a 2D "barcode").

Re:Low-end vs. high-end phones (1)

jamar0303 (896820) | more than 7 years ago | (#18036510)

This is made for Japan, where carriers will subsidize at least $400 of any phone's cost (that's why Japanese people pick up on phones quickly- they get all sorts of cool phones for free that US carriers are too cheap to subsidize) with a contract.

Re:Low-end vs. high-end phones (2, Interesting)

Dogtanian (588974) | more than 7 years ago | (#18036612)

Most low-end prepaid cell phones that I have seen in stores in my part of the United States do not include a digital camera. Therefore, Fujitsu would have to either 1. market this technology to advertisers trying to reach people with high-end phones, or 2. deploy more camera phones.
The United States mobile phone market is different to the European market is different to the Japanese market.

In the UK, camera phones are widely available for £50 inc. tax (US$90 approx) upwards, which is what most people would be spending on a phone anyway. (Sure, this isn't "low-end"- you can pick up a Nokia 1101 [wikipedia.org] and the like for £20- but most day-to-day mobile phone users will be buying in the £50-£100 range).

Anyhow, it strikes me that this technology would be most successful in Japan (different again); they've already got stuff like that which is popular there [slashdot.org] .

Re:Anyone remember Digital Convergence? (1)

CheShACat (999169) | more than 7 years ago | (#18036496)

Am I the only person here that's concerned with them finding/celebrating new ways to add information to adverts in a way that is barely discernable by the human eye? It sounds 100% subversive to me, even assuming it is used "properly" to add "extra content" to adverts.

Re:Anyone remember Digital Convergence? (1)

WhatAmIDoingHere (742870) | more than 7 years ago | (#18036972)

I tried to use my CueCat for it's intended purpose, but it didn't work. I tried many times to get the damn thing to work, but it never recognized what I was scanning. And I tried just about everything I owned.

Scary Tech (2, Insightful)

excelblue (739986) | more than 7 years ago | (#18034190)

Oh boy, another waste of technology, and why does this not seem original? If anything, it reminds me of the yellow dots some color laser printers would put on things. Surely, the same tech won't be used to prevent digital pictures, etc. at places will it?

Re:Scary Tech (5, Informative)

spagetti_code (773137) | more than 7 years ago | (#18034328)

The unique [washingtonpost.com] identification [eff.org] of many (soon to me most or all) inkjets and color lasers was not
done for you or me. It was done quietly for law enforcement [freedom-to-tinker.com] to be able
to *find* the owner of any printed document.

The enormity of that type of underhanded removal of privacy is
just gobsmacking. And most vendors quietly went along with it.

This technology will no doubt be used in a similar vein - any
picture uploaded onto the internet can be traced back to *you*.

Freedom takes another blow [la-articles.org.uk] .

Re:Scary Tech (1)

Peyna (14792) | more than 7 years ago | (#18034444)

The unique identification of many (soon to me most or all) inkjets and color lasers was not done for you or me. It was done quietly for law enforcement to be able to *find* the owner of any printed document.

Good thing I'm safe with my mono laser printer.

Re:Scary Tech (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 7 years ago | (#18036332)

What you don't realise is that it quietly absorbs plasma from your body while you work and then prints a tiny amount onto the corner of every document you write.

Re:Scary Tech (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18034562)

It is truly amazing. We've come a long way since Thomas Paine published Common Sense as an anonymous pamphleteer. I guess they don't want that to happen again.

Re:Scary Tech (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18034822)

His anonymous pamphleteering worked out so well that to this day we still don't know who wrote Common Sense.

Re:Scary Tech (1)

Johann Lau (1040920) | more than 7 years ago | (#18035060)

Uhm, that's kind of the point of the post you're replied to..?

Re:Scary Tech (1)

Craig Davison (37723) | more than 7 years ago | (#18034776)

O Rly? What if I paid cash for my inkjet printer?

Re:Scary Tech (1)

Mr. Roadkill (731328) | more than 7 years ago | (#18034998)

O Rly? What if I paid cash for my inkjet printer?
It'll still tie the printout to your printer when The Man executes a warrant to examine all your printers. So you'd better be damn sure you haven't done anything that'll lead investigators to suspect you, and haven't sent any correspondence to government departments - donning my tinfoil hat here, what is there to stop governments routinely examining correspondence for these markings and linking senders to particular printers?

Has anyone reverse-engineered the watermarks sufficiently to enable someone to add bogus watermarks to printouts from non-watermarking printers? That could be fun, once RFID is sufficiently commonplace - walk past a stack of printers in a store, capture their serial numbers and give them to your anarc^bastard friends on the other side of the country who then procede to create bogus watermarks that get used to send threatening letters over the next year or two and get law enforcement hassling innocent people whose only crime was to buy a printer and send in the warranty card.

Re:Scary Tech (1)

spyder913 (448266) | more than 7 years ago | (#18036378)

This is why on all "important" documents you print the whole page with a yellow overlay. Or you just don't replace the yellow ink cartridge.

Re:Scary Tech & blue LED's (1)

Technician (215283) | more than 7 years ago | (#18035582)

To easly see the pattern of yellow in a print, go in a dark place with a bright blue LED flashlight. If you don't have any samples handy, just use some new US $20 bills. Have some color copies done at Kinkos and look for the tiny easly visable dots that show near black under blue light. In magazines, the pattern will have to be much larger to be captured by cheap low resolution cell phones with fixed focus.

Re:Scary Tech (2, Funny)

mrogers (85392) | more than 7 years ago | (#18036094)

That's why I always write ransom notes by hand, using my own blood.

Don't print on color laser printers... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18034212)

...or your ads might be mistaken for counterfeit money.

http://www.eff.org/Privacy/printers/docucolor/ [eff.org]

Just like on Slashdot... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18034236)

You can find hidden messages everywhere... ,.. ., ...,..

Re:Just like on Slashdot... (1)

alex4u2nv (869827) | more than 7 years ago | (#18034258)

I have been trying to figure out what the hidden message is in this porn. Been taking picture all day at different angles, still no dice!

Kill the barcode! (3, Interesting)

Mr. Roadkill (731328) | more than 7 years ago | (#18034240)

Am I the only one who's annoyed by bar codes on CD covers and books?
Of course, this probably wouldn't fare too well on a re-issue of the White Album...

Re:Kill the barcode! (1)

slash.dt (701002) | more than 7 years ago | (#18034538)

Am I the only one who's annoyed by bar codes on CD covers and books?

Of course, this probably wouldn't fare too well on a re-issue of the White Album...

The idea is that this will not be visible to the naked eye - you should be cheering this announcment as a way to get rid of the barcodes that you hate but still keep the information.

Re:Kill the barcode! (4, Insightful)

Mr. Roadkill (731328) | more than 7 years ago | (#18034790)

The idea is that this will not be visible to the naked eye - you should be cheering this announcment as a way to get rid of the barcodes that you hate but still keep the information.
Um... I thought that was exactly what I was doing, while also pointing out a possible problem with certain kinds of image. Things might get interesting if you're embedding patterns of yellow in an image that consists of a uniform white, or - for that matter - any other uniform or near-uniform colour. I suspect that under some circumstances it WOULD introduce visible artifacts - it would need to shift the yellow balance in sufficiently large blocks for crappy cameraphones to be able to pick it up, so if you're adding that to a solid white or some other solid or near-solid colour it may be visible.

(and who the hell modded me OT? Did they actually RTFA? And do they still have enough modpoints to come back and mod this "Flamebait"?)

Re:Kill the barcode! (1)

TobascoKid (82629) | more than 7 years ago | (#18036730)

I think the idea is that while the White Album may appear to be a uniform white to you, in reality it's not. It's mildly disturbing to think that a crappy cameraphone may have better colour vision than a human.

They Live (1)

miskatonic alumnus (668722) | more than 7 years ago | (#18034242)

Consume. Breed. Sleep.

Re:They Live (2, Interesting)

troylanes (883822) | more than 7 years ago | (#18034564)

Don't forget OBEY
Has anyone else noticed that the fight scene in They Live is nearly exactly the same choreography as in the Cripple Fight episode of South park?

Re:They Live (1)

Martin Blank (154261) | more than 7 years ago | (#18034956)

The reverse is actually true -- that scene was based on They Live.

I need to get that movie on DVD.

Re:They Live (1)

Vengeance_au (318990) | more than 7 years ago | (#18034996)

Yes [youtube.com] - plenty of people [google.com.au] . It was quite intentional. Parker and Stone discuss it on the (IIRC) 5th Series DVD commentary.

Watermarks (1)

mfh (56) | more than 7 years ago | (#18034312)

I bet this results in some interesting watermark lawsuits in the next little while.

truthiness (5, Funny)

President_Camacho (1063384) | more than 7 years ago | (#18034324)

not entirely unlike those game pieces that need to be viewed through a colored filter

I believe these days, the correct term is African-American filter.

Re:truthiness (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18034380)

not entirely unlike those game pieces that need to be viewed through a colored filter
I believe these days, the correct term is African-American filter.
Cut the politically correct bullshit. It's nigga filter.

Filter stole my bike!

Re:truthiness (1)

T-Bone-T (1048702) | more than 7 years ago | (#18034410)

Troll? I thought it was hilarious!

Mod Parent Up (5, Insightful)

Max Littlemore (1001285) | more than 7 years ago | (#18034432)

Who are these donkeys who mod fantastically bad puns down just because they contain references to terms which may be politically sensitive or incorrect? I mean come on, that pun was beautifully apalling. Moderating it as troll seems to lack an understanding of what trolling is.

I have a good mind to suggest "Nigger Filter" just to desensitize idiots with mod points so next time they see posts like the parent, they won't get their jocks all knotty. Who needs karma anyway?

Re:Mod Parent Up (1)

IHC Navistar (967161) | more than 7 years ago | (#18035480)

I thnk they took a hint and left you have a post rating of 2.

BTW, I believe the technical term for the filter you proposed is called a Country Club.

ZING!

Political correctness is for people with serious personal issues. I never understood why PC people think it is politically correct to force their viewpoints on people who don't share their opinions. Tolerance means tolerating intolerance. Stereotypes don't happen for no reason.....

You're way behind.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18034586)

Reflectively and presidentially challenged

Only one reply is really suitable. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18034358)

fnord

Secret message (4, Funny)

StikyPad (445176) | more than 7 years ago | (#18034360)

I've already found the hidden message. Actually, once I learned of the technique, I was surprised at just how many of these hidden messages exist.

****SPOILER WARNING****

01000010 01100101 00100000 01110011 01110101 01110010 01100101 00100000 01110100 01101111 00100000 01100100 01110010 01101001 01101110 01101011 00100000 01111001 01101111 01110101 01110010 00100000 01001111 01110110 01100001 01101100 01110100 01101001 01101110 01100101 00101110

Re:Secret message (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18034416)

01001001 00100111 01101101 00100000 01110011 01101100 01100101 01100101 01110000 01101001 01101110 01100111 00100000 01110111 01101001 01110100 01101000 00100000 01111001 01101111 01110101 01110010 00100000 01100111 01101001 01110010 01101100 01100110 01110010 01101001 01100101 01101110 01100100 00101110

Re:Secret message (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18034442)

Even though nobody else thought it was funny, i thought that was hilarious and honestly lol'ed

Re:Secret message (1)

simontek2 (523795) | more than 7 years ago | (#18034456)

maybe I don't like ovaltine. 01001001001000000110010001101111011011100010011101 110100001000000110110001101001 01101011011001010010000001001111011101100110000101 101100011101000110100101101110 01100101

Re:Secret message (1)

t1n0m3n (966914) | more than 7 years ago | (#18035338)

+1

4F76616C74696E6520746173746573206C696B6520646F6E6B 65792062616C6C7300

Re:Secret message (3, Funny)

UnknownSoldier (67820) | more than 7 years ago | (#18034546)

#include <stdio.h>
 
char m[] =
"01000010 01100101 00100000 01110011 01110101 01110010 01100101 00100000 01110100 01101111 00100000 01100100 01110010 01101001 01101110 01101011 00100000 01111001 01101111 01110101 01110010 00100000 01001111 01110110 01100001 01101100 01110100 01101001 01101110 01100101 00101110";
 
int main(int argc, char* argv[])
{
    int v = 0;
    char *p = m;
    while( *p )
    {
        if (*p == ' ')
        {
            printf( "%c", v );
            v = 0;
        }
        else
        {
            v <<= 1;
            v += ((*p == '0') ? 0 : 1);
        }
        p++;
    }
 
    return 0;
}
--
Unfortunately, Slashdot limits sigs to .120 characters. However, I was able to ingeniously circumvent this limitation by using a pseudo .sig !

Re:Secret message (1)

dreamlax (981973) | more than 7 years ago | (#18034858)

v += ((*p == '0') ? 0 : 1);
I believe it's more efficient to do the following (assuming '0' == 0x30 and '1' == 0x31):

v |= (*p ^ 0x30);

Re:Secret message (1)

UnknownSoldier (67820) | more than 7 years ago | (#18035282)

Nice!

Re:Secret message (1)

Emil Brink (69213) | more than 7 years ago | (#18035784)

That is nice indeed. However, since it's cool to try to be portable, why not code it as

v |= *p ^ '0';
? This way, you don't depend on the encoding value of zero being known, not even to a human reader of the code. Also, I seem to recall that C insists that the numbers are encoded in adjacent and increasing positions in the encoding (although I don't have time to dig up a reference on that right now), so this should be pretty safe. Personally, I would probably still code it using the + operator since I think that is more logical (no pun intended) for the operation being performed, though.

Re:Secret message (1)

locofungus (179280) | more than 7 years ago | (#18036154)

re: v |= *p ^ '0'

This is not portable.

While C requires that '1' == '0' + 1, it doesn't (necesarily) follow that '1' ^ '0' == 1.

e.g.

'0' == 63
'1' == 64
'0' ^ '1' == 127

Tim.

Re:Secret message (1)

StikyPad (445176) | more than 7 years ago | (#18034862)

Unfortunately, Slashdot limits sigs to .120 characters.

You may want to check your math.

Re:Secret message (1)

pstudent12 (842643) | more than 7 years ago | (#18035362)

Here's the java version

public class x
{
public static void main (String args[])
    {
    String m =
    "01000010 01100101 00100000 01110011 01110101 01110010 01100101 00100000 01110100 01101111 00100000 01100100 01110010 01101001 01101110 01101011 00100000 01111001 01101111 01110101 01110010 00100000 01001111 01110110 01100001 01101100 01110100 01101001 01101110 01100101 00101110";

    int i = 0;
    for (int n = 0; n < m.length(); n++)
        {
        char c = m.charAt(n);
        if (c == ' ') {
            System.out.print((char)i);
            i = 0;
            }
        else
            {
            i = i << 1;
            i += ((c == '0') ? 0 : 1);
            }
        }
    }

}

//Be sure to drink your Ovaltine

Re:Secret message (1)

edschurr (999028) | more than 7 years ago | (#18035908)

I've been learning Scheme for a few days so here's another version, in "functional-style" (as I understand it so far, ie. no side-effects):

(define code
    (string->list "01000010 01")) ; Truncated. Results in '(#\0 #\1 ... #\space #\0 ...), Ugh.
(define decode
    (lambda (lst)
        (list->string (map integer->char (map list->integer (split code))))))
(decode code)

But I also had to code the procedures list->integer, split, and word in 503 characters exlcluding prefixed whitespace. I can't imagine the (in)efficiency. Time is 34 msec.

Re:Secret message (2, Insightful)

mennucc1 (568756) | more than 7 years ago | (#18036164)

echo 'ibase=2 01000010 01100101 00100000 01110011 01110101 01110010 01100101 00100000 01110100 01101111 00100000 01100100 01110010 01101001 01101110 01101011 00100000 01111001 01101111 01110101 01110010 00100000 01001111 01110110 01100001 01101100 01110100 01101001 01101110 01100101 00101110' | tr ' ' '\n' | bc -l | awk '{printf("%c",$1)}'
Unix by any other name would not stink^H^H^H^Hsmell differently.

Re:Secret message (1)

pimpimpim (811140) | more than 7 years ago | (#18036540)

you win the shell award :D

Modding code as funny?... (3, Funny)

StressGuy (472374) | more than 7 years ago | (#18037396)

Hey!...y-you guys are just a bunch of GEEKS!....all this time....I...I've been hanging out with GEEKS!!!

{...sniff...} and I thought I really was funny and insightful! {....sob!....}

Re:Secret message (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18034582)

"Be sure to drink your Ovaltine"

Re:Secret message (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18034810)

You leave my girlfriend out of this!

Re:Secret message (1)

complete loony (663508) | more than 7 years ago | (#18034866)

T25seSBvbiBzbGFzaGRvdCBkb2VzIGEgYnVuY2ggb2YgYmluYX J5IHZhbHVlcyBnZXQgbW9kZGVkIGZ1bm55IG9yIGluZm9ybWF0 aXZlLg==

Re:Secret message (1)

Fulkkari (603331) | more than 7 years ago | (#18035022)

T25seSBvbiBTbGFzaGRvdCB0aGVzZSBtZXNzYWdlcyB3aWxsIG FjdHVhbGx5IGJlIGRlY29kZWQuIDotKQ==

Re:Secret message (1)

UnknownSoldier (67820) | more than 7 years ago | (#18035296)

> How much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?

3 chords.

I miss Monkey Island...

Re:Secret message (1)

complete loony (663508) | more than 7 years ago | (#18036666)

VHJ1ZSwgYnV0IEkgd2FzIGtpbmQgb2YgaG9waW5nIGZvciBhIE Z1bm55IG9yIEluc2lnaHRmdWwgbW9kIG15c2VsZi4=

There goes my business model (2, Funny)

alshithead (981606) | more than 7 years ago | (#18034370)

I guess selling lemon juice for invisible ink has just been retired.

Where's Waldo? (2, Funny)

jlindy (1028748) | more than 7 years ago | (#18034398)

All that development money for a high tech version of Where's Waldo? O.K. So now for the obligatory... But I'm color blind you insensitive clods!

Poor Man's Barcode (1)

BoRegardless (721219) | more than 7 years ago | (#18034440)

...or maybe "Everyman's Barcode" since the majority of cell phones have cameras.

This will be a boon for advertisers wanting to direct traffic to their web sites.

Good...bad?

I just think it is an advance tha makes it easier for consumers.

Different? Yes. Good in a way, because now a cell phone can be deliberately used to picture a 'link' image (deliberately designated as such if desired), and users don't have to dink in the URL character by character.

[citation needed] (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 7 years ago | (#18034792)

the majority of cell phones have cameras.
[citation needed]

further development of an existing technology (5, Informative)

slash.dt (701002) | more than 7 years ago | (#18034516)

Mobile phones in Japan already have a function to read barcodes - rather than the traditional barcode that the west are used to, it is a small square of barcode information which holds a lot more data.

You often see this barcode on advertisements next to the url - you can scan the barcode and save typing in the url. I've done it several times - even my non-techy wife uses the feature.

This new announcement seems like a way that you can embed the information without having to have an obvious barcode spoiling the picture - but you will still need some tag to let you know that there was something there worth scanning.

Re:further development of an existing technology (3, Informative)

Hal_Porter (817932) | more than 7 years ago | (#18034588)

It's called QR code

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

The idea is that you print them on business cards, and people can scan your name and phone number into their phone quickly. Kind of useful in Japan where you end up with piles of business cards quite quickly.

Why not Semacode? (3, Informative)

mungewell (149275) | more than 7 years ago | (#18034534)

The artical talks about the 'advantage' that you can link a picture to a digital domain.... so why not just use semacode or Q-codes. Then the reader knows your pushing a website/etc and will actually point their phone at it!

Semacodes can store a lot more information and can be scalled to include more or less. They are FEC'ed and are quite relisiant to damage.
http://www.semacode.com/ [semacode.com]

You don't even need to use the offical Semacode decoder, there are Free projects around.
Simon

They put a CueCat in my phone! (4, Informative)

Panaflex (13191) | more than 7 years ago | (#18034548)

The CueCat [wikipedia.org] was a device to read barcodes out of printed materials into your machine - which then linked you up to the referenced website.

Fortunately it was a commercial failure - as the "free" devices cost a huge amount of cash. I'm sure this will fare better, of course, because it utilizes customers existing equipment. But who knows what wonderful websites it'll forward you too, hmm?

A very amateurish method. (4, Interesting)

jd (1658) | more than 7 years ago | (#18034616)

Why not use a 4-colour printer, where you have red, green, blue and then some non-primary colour that is monochromatic? A 0 is represented by the colour mix, a 1 by the monochromatic version. Just as easy to discern, as the monochromatic pixels will be picked up differently (giving you essentially the same shift as their technique) but would involve ZERO distortion of the image. "Hard to discern" is not the same as "no visible change".

This method can trivially be extended to any number of non-primary colours, with sufficient distance from each other. At worst, you get four (any two mixed, plus all three, versus the monochromatic version of each), giving you four times the information that can be stored as a straight 1 or 0.

Still not enough? Then add two more states (1:3 monochrome:mixed and 2:3, respectively). This gives you 4 possible states, ie: 2 bits per pixel, ie: eight times the information of this colour distortion method, and I'm not changing a damned single pixel's value in the process.

Fujitsu's method would be much harder to extend, as it's lossy, by deliberately introducing distortions. Eventually, if you add enough distortion to an image, you'll wreck the image. My alternative is lossless. There is no noise. I'm merely substituting one method of producing a value for another method of producing exactly the same value. There is no noise. You can extend the method as far as technology is capable of distinguishing the types of composition, and the human eye is guaranteed to register ABSOLUTELY ZERO change, because value-wise, there has been absolutely zero change. You can remove the information from the image and replace it with new information as often as you like, because there has been nothing lost at any stage.

Am I some sort of genius? No, I just read the Madame Tetrachromat article on Slashdot a few years back and realized that you could use the same technique to deliberately hide information in plain sight. I also read articles explaining the limitations of RGB and why monitors cannot display all colours correctly to the human eye. By adding secondary colours in monochromatic form, you can produce a more "correct" image. By implication, the "right" colours would be hard for the eye to pick out but trivial for an RGB camera.

So why didn't Fujitsu go with this method? VHS versus Betamax. A six- or seven-colour printer might be superior in how much information it can encode. It might also be superior in the quality of colour printing it can do under normal conditions, perhaps by a significant margin in some cases. It would also be hard to sell to customers who already have perfectly good RGB printers and would be a lot more expensive. People use 6.1 megapixel digital cameras and then convert to highly-compressed JPEG format because they prefer to burn quality than burn money. This will be the same. People will accept the loss rather than pay more for a cleaner image. They always have.

(But I still think a true 7-colour printer would be damn amazing.)

Re:A very amateurish method. (2, Insightful)

Stubtify (610318) | more than 7 years ago | (#18035244)

The benefit to the method described in the article (which is probably just modifying the yellow dot's angle and slightly shifting the image) is that it can be done on any 4 color press. You could modify the image accordingly, and when the printer prints it your done. Anyone printing the file would probably not need to even know there is a hidden pattern. This opens you up to using and 4 color (CMYK) printer in the world.

Your idea however requires special ink, as well as extra heads on the press. For a magazine run this is totally impractical. That's why most specialty printing is done seperate and then glued to a tab inside the magazine.

Then again, in re-reading your post, I'm not exactly sure what you're suggesting. RGB are not colors used in printing (they are display colors), and your discussion of bits sounds like you're talking about a direct digital reading of the data. The article discusses taking a *very* lossy cameraphone photo of something in a magazine, and allowing this pattern (probably a purposely made moiré pattern) to be run through software and decoded. The reason it works is because yellow ink is transparent to us, and the dots cannot be seen by the human eye.

Re:A very amateurish method. (2, Insightful)

jd (1658) | more than 7 years ago | (#18036132)

Correction taken. CMYB (Cyan Magenta Yellow Black) is the standard for printing, yes. CMY is basically RGB rotated, so the printing press would then use a mix of the three primary colours for everything other than red, green or blue. The red, green and blue would need to be inks that were specifically designed to be very pure wavelengths, so they would not be your regular mixes by any stretch. The idea is that a composite red and a pure, monochromatic red should look like exactly the same red to the human eye. However, you want it such that a composite red and a monochrome red have different characteristics as far as the CCD is concerned.

You'll find an example CCD distribution for Sony's ICX285AL CCD [sony.com] on page 8 of the PDF. By comparison, the human eye's response [ndt-ed.org] looks very different, with different receptors in each case picking up what is nominally the same colour.

You are correct, this would be horribly expensive. I think I may have mentioned that myself, in my original post. :) It would double the cost of the machines and quadruple the cost of ink. At least. It would also halve the effective throughput.

Re:A very amateurish method. (2, Informative)

NMerriam (15122) | more than 7 years ago | (#18035252)

So why didn't Fujitsu go with this method?


You've basically reinvented Gray Component Replacement [wikipedia.org] (GCR) and Under Color Removal [wikipedia.org] (UCR), and they have nothing to do with hiding information. Replacing colors on the press in what is a theoretically neutral way is already done for many reasons.

You're also depending on a perfect press, which doesn't exist (there are no bits or pixels on paper) -- you can't really swap ink mixtures in and out transparently. There is always a bit of difference due solely to the density of ink, humidity, paper, etc, so there are aesthetic reasons for replacing inks on the press in one way or the other.

99% of the full-color printers on Earth are set up for 4 colors -- Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black. The Yellow plate is the one we're least visually sensitive to, which is why they're using it to put information on. Your desktop printer is 4-color, not RGB (although it does all the processing in RGB). Adding extra plates or colors to printers is a hugely expensive and complicated undertaking, nobody is going to do it just to add something that isn't even visible.

Re:A very amateurish method. (1)

Nuffsaid (855987) | more than 7 years ago | (#18036190)

the human eye is guaranteed to register ABSOLUTELY ZERO change

At least, the color-blind human eye. I think the saturated/desaturated pattern you (seem to) describe, if made big enough to be detectable by a crap phone camera, would be as much visible as the one described in the article.

Full picture (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18034704)

The article only shows an excerpt of the photo so we can't really judge the quality of the processed photo. Here's the full picture [fujitsu.com] (and original PR [fujitsu.com] in Japanese).

In my opinion, the processed image looks too much blueish for a good quality photo.

Which makes you wonder... (1)

Daetrin (576516) | more than 7 years ago | (#18034760)

What _is_ entirely unlike those game pieces that need to be viewed through a colored filter?

Re:Which makes you wonder... (1)

pushing-robot (1037830) | more than 7 years ago | (#18035184)

The concoction produced by a Nutrimatic dispenser, presumably.

Re:Which makes you wonder... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18037318)

or tea.

I already did it 5 years ago, and with php (1)

dangil (167785) | more than 7 years ago | (#18034930)

true story.. I developed a php script that embeds 3 bits of information on a 4x4 pixel array, using DCT and spread spectrum, but I did with the blue hue, which to my knowledge is the one humans see the worse ( because of the refraction on the crystalin, it actualy is out of focus on our eye, hence black lights from discos are blurry) hey fujitsu , hire me ! I could use a job near akihabara

Re:I already did it 5 years ago, and with php (1)

polymorphorism (1002509) | more than 7 years ago | (#18035366)

oh yeah? well, I can embed 3 bits of information in a *3x1* pixel array! Or alternatively, *16 bits of information* in your 4x4 pixel array!

Here is a hidden message (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18034972)

1f|u|c4n|r34d|7h15|u|r34LLy|n33d|70|G37|4|L1f3|4nd |G37|L41d|u|c0mpu73r|n3rd;-))|

Re:Here is a hidden message (1)

LordEd (840443) | more than 7 years ago | (#18035200)

1|h4v3|4|G1r1fr3nd|u|1n53n5171v3|c10d!

In a million locker rooms across the land... (1)

nick_davison (217681) | more than 7 years ago | (#18035010)

I wonder if it's possible to get an otherwise invisible tattoo that reads, "By the way, that'll be $19.99/month. However, please limit your shots to those who consent in the future."

DRM use? (1)

Barbarian (9467) | more than 7 years ago | (#18035196)

I'm sure the next use someone will come up with will be a mechanism for content protection. "Sorry, this picture is not authorized. Please remain calm and wait for the police."

upcode (1)

ms1234 (211056) | more than 7 years ago | (#18035266)

A finnish company, upcode (www.upcode.fi) does this with a less hidden picture, in newspapers etc. You take a picture with your camera phone, the upcode software recognizes the code on the page and the code is sent to a server and a message (be it stock quotes or bus schedule info) is sent back.

Stegonagraphy and stenography (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18035528)

Cell phone deciphers printer's shorthand.

My tattoo (1)

snoggeramus (945056) | more than 7 years ago | (#18035576)

So my yellow tattoo wasn't such a waste after all?

Da Vinci Code (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18035826)

Well, if Langdorn would have had such a phone, the movie would only wasted 20 min's of my life instead of 150...

This is a really bad idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18035978)

Why make it easier for the bad guys to send secret messages in pictures?
See:
http://labnol.blogspot.com/2006/10/how-to-hide-sec ret-documents-or.html [blogspot.com]
or any article on steganography.

12 whole bytes (1)

Bloke down the pub (861787) | more than 7 years ago | (#18036296)

Now if only they could reverse this process to store a picture in 12 bytes...

oblig (1)

grimdawg (954902) | more than 7 years ago | (#18036574)

>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>

Hidden in the above whitespace is the phrase "I, for one, welcome our new invisible barcode overlords".

Now I can see... (1)

tenco (773732) | more than 7 years ago | (#18036630)

...all the "Fnord!"'s. 12 bytes of UTF-16 in BMP = 6 chars. Perfect. I knew it...

Why only print? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18037024)

Couldn't this same technique be used to embedded messages in JPGs or GIFs displayed on a monitor? I can see the spy movie where the hero gets a TinyURL and goes to that site and looks at the images through a filter to see his instructions. No, wait, that could _work_ so they'd never do it. ;-)

Tigger Taggants and Kodak Professional Paper (1)

purduephotog (218304) | more than 7 years ago | (#18037236)

Kodak did something similar with their professional papers. They embedded a recurrent pattern of dots in the blue channel (yellow dye) that could be seen on a scanner but was practically impossible to see with the naked eye. Hardware scanners then incorporated a 'tigger taggant' (It's been so long it could have been tiger taggants) detector and would lock out the user from printing the image unless a security override code was used. You couldn't defeat the mechanism by scanning it yourself, either, because unless you removed the blue channel dots it would still be present in the scanned image, and thus detected at printing (Such as at the XLS8500 Kiosk booths).

They eventually stopped doing so about 3 years ago, if memory serves, due to the increased cost of the paper. As you can imagine, pre-sensitization of the the paper with the taggants required unwinding the master rolls before cutting and significantly added to the cost.
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