QR codes come to campus sites

URBANA — Kindly Alma Mater has 58,599 "likes" on Facebook as of Thursday, and the first day of classes hasn't even hit yet.

The popular statue has welcomed University of Illinois students since 1929. Abreast of the times, her social-networking even includes a Twitter account.

Now she and other campus sites have the latest smartphone technology, so they can tell their stories to students and visitors.

Last year, UI employees Robin Kaler and Todd Wilson created an online tour that uses 30-some video profiles about notable campus sites.

This year, they're using QR codes to make those short historical clips available to smartphone users on the prowl.

Quick Response Codes were developed in 1994 for auto part suppliers, but now the 31 historical markers scattered around campus have them. Scanned with a smartphone, the codes play short videos about UI discoveries, inventions and accomplishments. And for the next couple of weeks, the Alma Mater has her own sign and QR code.

The new QR reader project cost the campus less than $100, said Joel Steinfeldt, a brand manager for the UI .

Steinfeldt, who created the new service with veteran artist Scott Paceley, recommends free apps for viewing the images: QR Droid and Shop Savvy for Android, Bar Code Scanner and QR reader for iPhone, and RedLaser for either.

But he warns shadows and shaky hands can sometimes cause glitches for users.

You can also view the virtual campus tour on the Web at http://bit.ly/nihsDg

A few fun facts from the UI, if you don't have a smartphone:

In 1953, John R. Laughnan discovered that kernels of a mutant corn were "unusually sweet." Within eight years, Laughnan had developed the Illini Supersweet hybrid that revolutionized the sweet corn industry. Supersweet, now a dominant variety internationally, is higher in protein and lower in calories than conventional sweet corn.

In the late 1940s, plant pathologist David Gottlieb isolated a strain of streptomyces, a soil bacterium. This bacterium produced an antibiotic compound that was developed into chloramphenicol, which helped save countless lives as one of the most important antibiotics of the "Golden Age of Antibiotics."

In 1961, Donald L. Bitzer, co-inventor of the plasma display panel, and Chalmers W. Sherwin introduced PLATO, the first computer-based education system, the first time-shared education system, and the home of the first online community.

The first public demonstration of sound recorded simultaneously with pictures on film took place at the Urbana campus on June 9, 1922. Joseph T. Tykociner's double-feature motion picture included ringing a bell and reading the Gettysburg Address. The invention was not patented — and he never got much credit for it, either.

In 1944, Thomas K. Cureton became the director of the physical fitness research laboratory, one of the first of its kind in the nation. He developed methods to test motor and cardiovascular fitness and aquatic performance and to appraise the human physique.

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