News | Technology | OnlineShazam could do for travel what it did to music searchThis article was originally published onBy Kevin May | June 9, 2015 Remember the days when we would all wonder if QR Codes could ever REALLY become something that people would actually use.Circa 2009-2010, countless travel brands (and many other companies from various sectors) would slap a QR Code on their poster advertising or on-site branding, in the hope that passers-by would scan the pixelated square to find out more information.There was even a (very silly) plan in 2011 to build a hotel in Dubai (where else?) in the style of a giant QR Code.The world has thankfully moved on rather a lot since then.There are still a fair number of ads and signs kicking about which feature QR Codes, but its use as an information or marketing tool has largely been forgotten in many markets.Whilst all this was going on, a UK-based startup known as Shazam was slowly building itself a reputation as the go-to mobile application for music lovers.With remarkable accuracy, even on more obscure titles, Shazam listens to any audio and then returns information about the track to the mobile owner.Shazam has managed to get itself a global audience of over 100 million active users every month and has so far found 15 billion songs for its users.After hinting earlier this year that the company was considering how the application might evolve in the years to come, Shazam has now announced how it wants to take the "recognition" element of its core functionality to a completely new area: visuals.Launching initially with a handful of lifestyle brands, users are being encouraged to reconsider how they discover information about a service or product in the same they used to for learning the artist performing a song.Whenever a user waves their phone over any item with the Shazam camera logo on it (or an existing QR Code), they will be redirected to custom mobile website which includes interactive content, special offers, and ability to purchase items or share them with others.This is a major leap here from previous efforts by Shazam to work with travel brands (Expedia in 2013 was a high profile test), when previously it asked users play the audio from an ad into the app in order to obtain more information.With visual recognition, it seems there is very little to stop all manner of travel brands, airports and destinations (museums, attractions, etc) to dive in to this area pretty soon.Why?The idea and reality of the QR Code seemed dated even at the time of its introduction - looking rather late-1980s in its design and fiddly to use with early smartphone cameras which often needed an app to convert the QR Code before sending to the brand in question.Having Shazam introduce the visual recognition concept is a different matter entirely (not least with it all taking place within the existing application), with tens of millions of users actively engaging in the idea of waving a mobile device in the direction of a source (audio) to get more information.The app is also certainly seen to be at the cool end of the consumer tech world - something which can be a considerable advantage when a new idea is being introduced to the market.CEO Rich Riley says: "The introduction of visual recognition is another step on our journey to extend the ways people can use Shazam to engage with the world around them. "For brands, we’re providing a near-frictionless way to engage customers on their mobile devices, with a single tap of a button."Share this quote Where this concept of visual recognition could take an interesting turn is if Shazam starts to include non-contracted product items in its portfolio.The app currently has millions of songs included in its system for audio recognition, but many of those are not included by way of a commercial agreement with Shazam. It's a user-led service to discover new music.Perhaps the same ethos could be extended to visuals further down the line, where any physical item (similar to how augmented reality works) is recognised and information then shared with the user.