Austrian gravesites get digital twist

Thu Oct 4, 2012 7:22am EDT
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By Michael Shields

VIENNA (Reuters) - The fabled Viennese fondness for fine funerals and "a schoene Leich" - a beautiful corpse - is about to get a modern twist.

Digital technology is about to give Austrian gravestones the potential to speak across time by showing pictures and biographies of the people buried below.

All you need is a smartphone equipped with a scanner to read the so-called "quick response" (QR) codes, the square of squiggles already widely used in advertising campaigns to unlock a trove of information for the curious.

The first QR codes will start appearing on graves in Austria within weeks, said Joerg Bauer, project leader for Austrian bereavement company Aspetos, who has been working on the QR project for five years.

Bauer said cemetery visitors could even view videos if connection speeds were high enough, although he frowned on the prospect of disturbing others with loud music.

"Most mobile phones have a radio function that works only when the earbuds are in. If we do it this way we don't disturb the peace of the dead and people can still hear music by the grave without disturbing those nearby," he said.

The codes - first developed in Japan to track car parts in the 1990s - may eventually link music fans with the lives of legendary composers like Beethoven and Mozart enshrined at Vienna's central cemetery, he said, although local officials say there are no immediate plans for this.

QR codes may have got their start in car manufacturing, advertising and marketing, but also lend themselves to supporting grief-stricken families who want the memories of loved ones to go on, he said.   Continued...

German mason Timothy Vincent looks at a QR code engraved onto a gravestone in the Austrian village of Boeheimkirchen about 65km (40 miles) west of Vienna September 21, 2012. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger