Rethinking how we present molecules in consumer products using mobile apps

It seems a long time ago that Alex Clark and I were brainstorming over beers following a local ACS meeting here in Raleigh on what cool mobile apps could be created..inspired by posters and how we display chemistry information (think tables of structures and data that is not easily extracted or shared).

Recently one of these ideas came to fruition after a lot of hard work by Alex (all credit to him) – its called Living Molecules which is a free iOS app that creates glyphs or QR codes for molecules and Alex has described it in detail in a video, how MolSync is involved how posters can use them etc. Some early comparisons of the app across different iPhones and iPads resulted in several nifty improvements, and algorithm developments for all the geeks out there.

While the app was being developed I was inspired by seeing a shampoo label with a QR code near its ingredients list..and thought what if the ingredients list was a QR code of sorts, this could help make the contents more explicit to non-chemists, it could also point to a website with far more information about the ingredients, like what they do, impact on environment etc.. and of course there would be no need for country specific language conversions of ingredients on the packaging as this could be done online. Would customers accept this idea? How many people look at the small print on the products they buy? what would be the legal implications to have a machine readable ingredients label? Would it make life easier?

Anyway I have mocked up the idea here and here to show how it could work using Living Molecules. I could find most ingredients in the ChemSpider mobile app, and made use of the MMDS app to create the spreadsheet of molecules and names from the ingredients. So all in all it also presents a complete App workflow involving three apps!

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