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Company To Show Shoppers Blog Reviews

TechCrunch: Toshiba to Push Blog Reviews to Mobile Shoppers. There is a report that Toshiba is developing software that will allow people to take a picture of the bar code label of many products, send it to a related service and quickly receive back information related to the product. The data the service returns? From blogs. Yep, Toshiba will send back summary information on how many blogs gave the product positive and negative reviews. Related product information will also be displayed.

This fits into the category of “every object can tell a story.” But it’s hardly a new idea — remember the infamous CueCat project — and it doesn’t sound all that difficult in any event.

Consider what Marc Smith at Microsoft Research was doing more than three years ago as part of their ongoing “Aura” project. As I recounted in my book:

Using what is essentially off-the-shelf technology, he’s equipped a handheld computer with a wireless Internet connection and a bar-code scanner that he uses to scan products in stores. His computer then connects to a server that collects data from Google and other sources, and shows him the results on the handheld screen.

Suddenly, far more than the price is available. Data about the product, and its maker, is available in a far wider information ecosystem. Was a shirt made by slave labor? Did the can of processed food come from a company with a record of poisoning streams in its factories’ backyards? Did the company have a reputation for being good to employees and the environment? Smith likes to show a supermarket scan he once did of a cereal box. The top item in Google reveals that the maker had at one point recalled the product because a significant ingredient wasn’t on the label. That might be interesting information to someone hyper-allergic to that ingredient. If every object can tell a story, Smith said, “One of the more profound stories is ‘If you eat me I will kill you.’”

Today, the top items in any Google search may well include blog items. But to limit the search to blogs is, I think, making the universe too narrow.

Nonetheless, Toshiba’s move is interesting. If a consumer products company is learning to treat consumers more as customers — being somewhat more transparent in helping customers learn more about the products — that’s worthwhile.

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