1. Imagine a digital billboard on a subway station not too far from where The Daily Show tapes in New York airing muted clips from the show to passing pedestrians.

2. A commuter entering the subway points her smartphone camera at the screen as host Jon Stewart gestures through a bit. The VRcode beams the clip to her phone. Currently the phone would need a data connection to transfer the video, but Woo wants to make this process work without an Internet connection.

3. By the time the commuter finishes walking down the stairs, her phone has queued up the audio and video. Laugh all the way home.

85. Grace Woo

Founder, Pixels.IO

The Engineer Making Screens Smarter

You know QR codes, those ugly, dot-riddled boxes on TV or web ads? Grace Woo hates them. She's developed an alternative, a technology called video response (VR) codes that can turn all the screens around us into interactive experiences. Invisible to the human eye, VRcodes hide in the flickering light of a screen. Content creators embed a VRcode into any digital media, from live TV to a magazine article on a tablet, and a smartphone can recognize and respond to it. "Designers love it because it's completely unobtrusive," says Woo, who holds a PhD in electrical engineering and computer science from MIT. Her company, Pixels.IO, is already working with NBC Universal and the global advertising firm Aegis Media to bring VRcodes to the public. For now, companies using VR need to cue people to unlock any goodies, but Woo envisions a day when her creation is inside all digital media. Point, click, enjoy.

[Illustrations by Justin Mezzell]

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