My dad doesn't know what a QR code is. In fact, I was at pains to explain to him what Twitter was over a full English breakfast last weekend. As a salesman stuck in the 20th century, I'm still not sure he understands the benefits of using an online channel to communicate with your audience - he's not even late to the digital party, he didn't get an invite.
But I think this little gadget, from JC Penny in the US, might just begin to bridge the digital divide that separates the likes of my dad and digital natives. Both novel and gimmicky, the QR code that allows you to record your own voice message to accompany your gift will also mean those with relatives in far-flung corners of the globe can add a personal element to their present. As Clay Shirky proclaimed "technology increases the fluidity of all media," and this example demonstrates just that. First we had Friends Reunited, and now the use of Facebook for keeping in touch with loved ones is common practice. Gadgets that play to people's emotions, especially during annual holidays (and launching it during the most commercial of them all wasn't a bad tactic) can make the difference between those that will adopt the technology and those that will be alienated by it. What remains to be seen is whether JC Penny and the like can successfully market the product outside of annual holidays. My guess is if they generate enough interest and 'buzz' this time around, then this idea is likely to run and run.