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Yep, it’s a QR code stencil generator! The F.A.T. Lab is pleased to present QR_STENCILER, a free, fully-automated utility which converts QR codes into vector-based stencil patterns suitable for laser-cutting. Additionally, we present QR_HOBO_CODES, a series of one hundred QR stencil designs which, covertly marked in urban spaces, may be used to warn people about danger or clue them into good situations. The QR_STENCILER and the QR_HOBO_CODES join the Adjustable Pie Chart Stencil in our suite of homebrew "infoviz graffiti" tools for locative and situated information display.

The QR_STENCILER loads QR code image files, and exports vector-based PDF stencils.

CONTENTS

ABOUT THIS PROJECT
QR codes are a form of two-dimensional barcode which are widely used to convey URLs and other short texts through camera-based smartphones. A variety of free tools exist to generate QR codes (such as the Google Charts API) and to read them (such as TapMedia’s free QR Reader for iPhone app). Our QR_STENCILER is a Java-based software utility which loads a user-specified QR code image — from which it then generates a lasercutter-ready, topologically correct stencil .PDF. As Fred Trotter has pointed out, QR codes contain stencil islands in unpredictable configurations. QR_STENCILER automatically detects and bridges these islands, using thin lines that are minimally disruptive to the highly robust QR algorithm. It does so through the use of two basic image processing techniques: connected component labeling (sometimes called blob detection) and 8-connected chain coding (sometimes called contour tracing). QR_STENCILER was created with Processing, a free, cross-platform programming toolkit for the arts.

Closeup of stencil corners and islands
Closeup of a QR code lasercut in 1/8"-thick fiberboard. The QR_STENCILER automatically thickens corners between squares (left) and generates "bridges" to connect stencil islands (center). The level (amount) of island bridging is user-adjustable.

Accompanying the QR_STENCILER are the QR_HOBO_CODES (see below), a set of 100 lasercutter-ready QR stencil designs created with the QR_STENCILER software. These stencils can be understood as a covert markup scheme for urban spaces — providing directions, information, and warnings to digital nomads and other indigenterati. We present these as modern equivalents of the chalk-based "hobo signs" developed by 19th century vagabonds and migratory workers to cope with the difficulty of nomadic life. Indeed, our set of QR stencils port a number of classic hobo annotations to the QR format ("turn right here", "dangerous dog", "food for work") as well as some new ones, with a nod to warchalking, that are specific to contemporary conditions ("insecure wifi", "hidden cameras", "vegans beware").

Classic hobo signs
Examples of 19th- and 20th-Century "hobo signs". Sources: Fran DeLorenzo (left), Wikipedia (right).

DOWNLOAD & INSTRUCTIONS
QR_STENCILER has been tested in MacOSX 10.6.8, but (since Processing is a cross-platform toolkit) it should work in Windows or Linux as well.

  1. Make yourself a QR code image which embeds a short piece of text. GoQR.me, Google and Kaywa all provide free online QR generators. To reduce the complexity of the stencil, we recommend generating your code with the shortest possible texts, and with lower levels of error correction (L-level or M-level). At the same time, we recommend generating QR code images with more pixel resolution, such as 500x500px; for QR_STENCILER, the ideal input image has a “grid size” of about 20 image-pixels per QR grid-cell. (See this QR code for an example; it has 23-pixel grid-cells in an overall image size of 540x540px.)
  2. Download QR_STENCILER.zip, and unzip this to a folder. The QR_STENCILER is also available from this Github repository.
  3. Although the zip includes compiled executables for Mac, Windows and Linux, we recommend running the QR_STENCILER from the Processing development environment. Download and install the Processing development tool. The QR_STENCILER works with Processing v.1.5.1 or later.
  4. Put your QR code image in the folder, ‘QR_STENCILER/data/’
  5. Launch Processing and open ‘QR_STENCILER.pde’
  6. Press ‘Run’ (Command-R) to start the stenciler.
  7. You will be prompted to Open your QR code image. (A default “hello world” QR code will be opened if none is provided).
  8. After opening the QR code image, the program will generate a stencil .PDF in the ‘data’ folder. Note that there are some options (checkboxes, sliders) which you can use to alter the generated stencils in various ways, including (for example) generating “reverse” (white-on-black) stencils.
  9. The .PDF can be opened in your favorite CAD program, for laser-cutting materials like cardboard, delrin, MDF or acrylic. If you need to find a lasercutter, consider Ponoko.com, which ships anywhere. You can also Google ‘lasercutting service‘ to find a bureau near you, or check the Architecture or Design departments of your local university. (Of course, you could always print out the PDF on paper if you prefer to cut the stencil by hand. Cheap!)
  10. For non-permanent outdoor marking materials, we recommend Erwin Strait-Line 64908 powdered chalk; black spray chalk; black finger paint; and Crayola Sidewalk Paint.
  11. After marking your stencil, test it with a QR code reader, such as TapMedia’s free QR Reader for iPhone app.

The QR_STENCILER loads QR code image files, and exports vector-based PDF stencils.
More photos: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.

LICENSE
The QR_STENCILER software is provided "as is", without warranty of any kind. QR_STENCILER is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. You are free to distribute, remix, and modify QR_STENCILER, so long as you share alike and provide attribution to FFFFF.AT. The repackaging of QR_STENCILER as or into commercial software, is expressly prohibited. Please note that QR_STENCILER also enjoys protections under the GRL Repercussions 3.0 license. More details about QR_STENCILER’s license and warranty can be found in the preamble to its main code file, QR_STENCILER.pde; for other uses, please contact us. The 100 QR_HOBO_CODES and their respective stencils are hereby dedicated to the public domain.

QR_HOBO_CODES


25-minute wait
png | stencil

assholes
png | stencil

bad coffee
png | stencil

bad food
png | stencil

bad tempered owner
png | stencil

bad water
png | stencil

be alert
png | stencil

be quiet
png | stencil

be ready to defend yourself
png | stencil

beware pickpockets
png | stencil

bike thieves
png | stencil

boring
png | stencil

broken meter
png | stencil

camera perverts
png | stencil

camp here
png | stencil

cars ticketed
png | stencil

caveat emptor
png | stencil

changing table
png | stencil

cheap drinks
png | stencil

check cashing
png | stencil

civilized place
png | stencil

contraception available
png | stencil

cops active
png | stencil

cops inactive
png | stencil

danger
png | stencil

dangerous homophobes
png | stencil

dangerous neighborhood
png | stencil

dishonest scalpers here
png | stencil

dog
png | stencil

food for work
png | stencil

free doctor
png | stencil

free out-of-date food
png | stencil

free wifi
png | stencil

get out fast
png | stencil

go straight
png | stencil

good cheap food
png | stencil

good coffee
png | stencil

good for a handout
png | stencil

good to kids
png | stencil

good veg-burger
png | stencil

good water
png | stencil

GPS is incorrect
png | stencil

great dumpster
png | stencil

habla espanol
png | stencil

has showers
png | stencil

help if sick
png | stencil

here is the place
png | stencil

hidden cameras
png | stencil

high-fee ATM
png | stencil

hold your tongue
png | stencil

insecure wifi
png | stencil

it’s fake
png | stencil

just ignore him
png | stencil

keep away
png | stencil

keep going
png | stencil

kind family
png | stencil

lax oversight
png | stencil

look down
png | stencil

look up
png | stencil

lots of outlets
png | stencil

mean to children
png | stencil

nice bathroom
png | stencil

no bathrooms
png | stencil

no changing table
png | stencil

no fee ATM
png | stencil

no outlets
png | stencil

no pets
png | stencil

no privacy
png | stencil

open late
png | stencil

over-priced
png | stencil

over-rated
png | stencil

owner gives to GOP
png | stencil

owner has a gun
png | stencil

perverts
png | stencil

pissoir
png | stencil

Plan B sold here
png | stencil

prostitution sting
png | stencil

scammers
png | stencil

sleep in barn
png | stencil

speed trap
png | stencil

stay low
png | stencil

strong phone signal
png | stencil

talk religion
get food

png | stencil

tell a hard luck
story here

png | stencil

test market
png | stencil

those aren’t real
png | stencil

toll road
png | stencil

tramp camp
png | stencil

tramps arrested on sight
png | stencil

turn left here
png | stencil

turn right here
png | stencil

unexpectedly good coffee
png | stencil

unsafe area
png | stencil

use gloves
png | stencil

used frying oil available
png | stencil

vegans beware
png | stencil

well guarded
png | stencil

will give to get
rid of you

png | stencil

work available
png | stencil

worth saving
png | stencil

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
QR_STENCILER was created by Golan Levin and Asa Foster III with support from the STUDIO for Creative Inquiry at Carnegie Mellon University. Thanks to Ben Fry, Andreas Schlegel, Marcus Beausang, Neil Brown & Judy Robertson for the terrific code they have made available online. A tip of the hat to Fred Trotter, Jovino, Ric Johnson, le Suedois, Patrick Donnelly, David J. Burden, Matt Jones and others who have gone down similar or related paths. Additional thanks to Andrea Boykowycz for creative input. Some of the QR_HOBO_CODES are adapted from or inspired by designs presented elsewhere by Fran DeLorenzo and Cockeyed.com. "QR code" is trademarked by Denso Wave, Inc.

KEYWORDS
Barcode, QR code, stencil, QR code stencil, graffiti, grafitti, graffiti research, graf technology, street art, culture jamming, tactical media, urban messaging, locative media, situated visualization, contextual computing, lasercut, laser cutter, digital fabrication, template, chalk signs, chalk, spray paint, spraypaint, fffffat lab, hobo culture, hobo signs, warchalking.

COMMENTS

  1. Jim Bowes says:

    Guys,

    Super cool. Can we make a donation. It took time and effort to develop this tool and we will use it so we would like to at lest buy you a round of beer!
    Let me know Jim
    GreenGraffiti®

  2. [...] für digitale Nomaden: “The Free Art and Technology Lab has created a series of 100 QR stencil designs that can be used to provide directions, information, [...]

  3. [...] Schablonen dazu werden mit dem “QR Stencil Generator” hergestellt, einem Tool, das QR-Codes in vektorbasierte Schablonen wandelt. #gallery-2 { [...]

  4. [...] possibly the most brilliant use of the technology I’ve seen yet. [Read more about it on the Free Art & Technology [...]

  5. golan says:

    @Jawnita, that issue is now resolved. Thanks for your feedback.

  6. Hey Golan,

    Cool idea!

    You can use our zxing4processing lib to easily incorporate QR-tag creation in the Processing sketch.

    Get a copy of the library here:
    http://www.artisopensource.net/productslife/library.php

    Peace,
    Rolf

  7. [...] QR Code Stencil Generator and QR Hobo Codes | F.A.T. [...]

  8. [...] post is a brief alert to announce the final (updated, v.1.1) release of the F.A.T. Lab’s QR_STENCILER software. This tool is a free, fully-automated utility that converts QR codes into vector-based [...]

  9. golan says:

    Just a quick update that the QR_STENCILER is now available:

    — As a ZIP file from the F.A.T. Lab website (Version 1.1, 3 August 2011, 15MB), including compiled Mac/Win/Linux applications.

    — As a Java applet on OpenProcessing.org. This is primarily for pedagogic purposes and quick reference, as the in-browser Java virtual machine does not permit the exporting of stencil PDFs.

    — As a code repository on Github. Any future updates to this project will be found there

  10. Bryan Croft says:

    Cool stuff – we did a video about it yesterday –

  11. [...] QR Hobo Codes, for those hobos carrying a smartphone (via @bruces). before I fall to sleep, here’s a very short video illustrating Minecraft brought to the real world using augmented reality (more specifically, using Kudan’s Qoncept engine).  [...]

  12. [...] Sound interesting? Check out more here. [...]

  13. jb says:

    I’ve already hear about it but don’t know that still use, crazy

  14. [...] mais aqui. Esta entrada foi publicada em Sem categoria. Adicione o link permanente aos seus favoritos. [...]

  15. [...] QR_STENCILER and QR_HOBO_CODES The QR_STENCILER is a free, fully-automated utility which converts QR codes into vector-based stencil patterns suitable for laser-cutting. Source: fffff.at [...]

  16. [...] QR_STENCILER and QR_HOBO_CODES The QR_STENCILER is a free, fully-automated utility which converts QR codes into vector-based stencil patterns suitable for laser-cutting. Source: fffff.at [...]

  17. [...] QR_STENCILER and QR_HOBO_CODES The QR_STENCILER is a free, fully-automated utility which converts QR codes into vector-based stencil patterns suitable for laser-cutting. Source: fffff.at [...]

  18. [...] I’ve been rather fascinated with QR codes as of late. And it seems they’re becoming more and more popular, I’m seeing them in not only in the hip Japanese magazines I have, but the less hip magazines my mother gets too. They’re popping up in TV shows and adverts on the street as well. And people are putting them to other more awesome uses. [...]

  19. [...] Sick of QR Codes delivering little more than a website hyperlink? Then it’s time you checked out F.A.T Lab’s QR Stenciler. [...]

  20. Golan Levin says:

    Text from an interview. //-GL

    > Who are you?
    We are a collective of artists, who are concerned with giving people tools to engage with rapidly changing new forms of culture. See our “people” page for information about us as individuals.

    > Why did you creat this software?
    The Stenciler software was created as a disruptor, in order to allow everyday people a new way to mark up (annotate) their environment. the QR hobo codes were created to demonstrate the software, and spark people’s imaginations about the possibilities.

    > Are the software and hobo QR signs widely used in the USA?
    Hobo signs used to be very common in the united states, in the early 20th century, but are no longer very common. The QR hobo signs are only two weeks old so I don’t expect they have been widely adopted yet. They are presented as a conjectural or speculative provocation. A small handful of people are already using the stenciler software, such as the folks at GreenGraffiti.com.

    > Is this only for fun, or is it really to inform people?
    We see no reason why it can’t be both simultaneously. Medicine goes down more easily with a spoonful of sugar.

    > Are you still creating new hobo signs?
    No, we made 100 and that seemed like enough. Now other people can make their own signs with the tool we provided, as we have demonstrated.

    > And what about the true hobo: are they still creating hobo signs?

    Handmade chalk signs are still in use by some migrant workers. See the wikipedia article on hobo signs.

    It is wrong to assume that a homeless person does not own or need or know how to use a mobile phone, however. Indeed, for some homeless people, their mobile number is the nearest thing they have to a definite address. The nature of “hobo” is changing, thus hobo marks need to change as well. Check out the concept of “technomadism”: homeless people with mobile phones and even laptops. And check out the concept of “warchalking”: marks made to indicate technological features of the environment.

    > Do you have any idea whether hobo signs are used in other countries?

    The QR code hobo signs are a type of graffiti, which has a long history across many societies: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Graffiti#Modern-style_graffiti

    For example: (quote from above article):
    The first known example of “modern style” graffiti survives in the ancient Greek city of Ephesus (in modern-day Turkey). Local guides say it is an advertisement for prostitution. Located near a mosaic and stone walkway, the graffiti shows a handprint that vaguely resembles a heart, along with a footprint and a number. This is believed to indicate that a brothel was nearby, with the handprint symbolizing payment.

    This is fundamentally similar to the use of hobo codes to mark up architecture.

  21. [...] and educate people, do I create a new set of symbols, what information do I want to give? Well these guys have come up with an interesting use for QR Codes which pick up on the idea of Hobo Symbols but use [...]

  22. [...] QR code was translated into a laser cut ready file via F.A.T. lab’s QR_STENCILER utility. Using marking chalk, the stencil was painted on the street near to where the original [...]

  23. [...] QR Hobo Codes, for those hobos carrying a smartphone (via @bruces). before I fall to sleep, here’s a very short video illustrating Minecraft brought to the real world using augmented reality (more specifically, using Kudan’s Qoncept engine).  [...]

  24. [...] has updated that for the modern world and smart phones.  That’s right, someone has made QR Code Hobo Codes.  Now, you can just print up templates and spray them with paint out there in the world and people [...]

  25. [...] QR Code Stencil Generator and QR Hobo Codes | F.A.T. Yep, it’s a QR code stencil generator! We present QR_STENCILER, a free, fully-automated utility which converts QR codes into vector-based stencil patterns suitable for laser-cutting. Additionally, we present QR_HOBO_CODES, a series of one hundred QR stencil designs which, covertly marked in urban spaces, may be used to warn people about danger or clue them into good situations. The QR_STENCILER and the QR_HOBO_CODES join the Adjustable Pie Chart Stencil in our suite of homebrew "infoviz graffiti" tools for locative and situated information display. (tags: code graffiti stencil barcode) [...]

  26. [...] click aquí pueden generar y/o descargar los stenciles. Aún no hay [...]

  27. [...] QR_STENCILER and QR_HOBO_CODES – Golan Levin – F.A.T. Lab The QR_STENCILER is a free, fully-automated utility which converts QR codes into vector-based stencil patterns suitable for laser-cutting. [...]

  28. [...] Pues bien, un diseñador llamado Govin Levy ha reinterpretado el lenguaje hobo utilizando códigos QR. Y no solo eso, sino que también ha desarrollado una aplicación que genera plantillas recortables de dichos códigos que pueden luego utilizarse para marcar los espacios urbanos y prevenir a la gente de cualquier situación. El generador de plantillas puede descargarse aquí. [...]

  29. [...] QR_STENCILER and QR_HOBO_CODES The QR_STENCILER is a free, fully-automated utility which converts QR codes into vector-based stencil patterns suitable for laser-cutting. (RT @maximedelmas: Un soft pour concevoir des pochoirs de QR Codes ! Source: fffff.at [...]

  30. Irezumkiss says:

    Has the white man screwed you over or do you feel that the white man should pay for what his ancestors did
    Do you believe that black men should own white woman then this is the perfect place for you.

    Come join us at
    http://forum.literotica.com/forumdisplay.php?f=4

    Log in and say hi and tell us why you hate white people. Pm me as I go by the name Irezumkiss
    Thankyou and enjoy

  31. [...] QR_STENCILER and QR_HOBO_CODES The QR_STENCILER is a free, fully-automated utility which converts QR codes into vector-based stencil patterns suitable for laser-cutting. Source: fffff.at [...]

  32. [...] want to be opaque and use a hidden message. See the QR hobo codes, which are readable by homeless people… with [...]

  33. [...] QR code stencil generator! The F.A.T. Lab presents QR_STENCILER, a free, fully-automated utility which converts QR codes into vector-based stencil patterns [...]

  34. [...] QR_STENCILER This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. ← Day 5 – Casting&Molding continued, electronics [...]

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