QR Code Tattoos Prove We’ve Learned Nothing From The 90s

@gabrielepellerone/Alamy

Robots, space travel, hoverboards – there are all sorts of signs we’re now officially in the future, but QR tattoos are one thing that actually feel like a bit of a blast from the past.

QR codes, or ‘Quick Response’ codes, have become commonplace in society over the past few years, and with a little push from the coronavirus pandemic we’re now used to scanning them to access everything from train tickets to food menus, to songs and proof of vaccination.

Though the codes in themselves are pretty modern, they act in a very similar way to barcodes, which also offer extra information when scanned.

Now, as the notion of having an interactive tattoo is fairly novel, it’s not that surprising that barcode tattoos were all the rage in the 90s, when people went through a craze of inking the black lines on their bodies.

Much like any trend, though, the popularity of the tattoos eventually faded out, begging the question of whether anyone now regrets having a series of lines that wouldn’t look out of place on a pack of broccoli or the side of a milk bottle.

Still, the rise and fall of barcode tattoos hasn’t swayed some members of the public from getting inked with scannable tattoos, and as the QR code established itself as a fast and varied source of information, the requests to have them put permanently on the skin began rolling in.

Vikas Malani, an India-based tattoo artist who runs a studio called Body Canvas, told VICE he’s given a QR code tattoo to a client who wanted to share the romantic song it led to with his girlfriend, while other codes are designed to lead to social media pages and music videos.

I say ‘designed to’ because the QR codes don’t always work out as planned, due to the precise nature of their design. Gabrielle Pellerone, a tattoo artist who runs a studio called Boot-W, explained you need ‘a lot of precision and training to make a QR code tattoo that actually works’.

Even if the design is perfect, the codes can be changed quite easily, meaning some mischievious, tech-savvy pranksters might mess with someone’s tattoo by changing the destination of the code.

Malani also noted that the tattoos might face a downfall over time, explaining they likely have a ‘short life because you probably won’t be able to scan it properly once you get older and your skin starts to sag’.

Leonardo Biason, a tattoo artist based in Pordenone, Italy, added that the codes ‘don’t have a historic significance’, and therefore we ‘don’t know if they will still work in 10 years, or if the links they link to will be deleted’.

He added, ‘To do it or not do it depends solely on the meaning the person attributes to the tattoo.’

Though QR codes might not be the most practical or timeless choices for tattoos, they evidently make for a good talking point!

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