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85. Grace Woo

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]SB