Vacation snapshots are nice, but wouldn’t they be nicer if you could swipe your cellphone over them to retrieve video, sound files and captions?

That’s the idea behind the Memory Spot, an adhesive chip in development at Hewlett-Packard’s Bristol, England, facility. The stamp-like memory device comes in two sizes, 1.4 or 2 millimeters square. Affixed to a photo or document, it can store and transfer up to four megabytes of data, enough for a short video or a couple songs.

Howard Taub, associate director of HP Labs, likens the Memory Spot to radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags but notes some key differences. Both use radio waves to transfer data, but the Memory Spot works at a higher frequency. As a result, the antenna embedded in the chip—and the chip itself—can be thinner. The tradeoff is transmission distance: Whereas RFID can work from across a room, the Memory Spot requires nearly direct contact with a reader to transfer data. Ideally, the reader would be built into your phone or some other handheld device. Wave it over the Memory Spot, and in less than a second you’d have your file.

Aside from photos, Taub says, the stamps could be used to store medical records on patient wristbands or to authenticate prescription-pill bottles. Expect it on store shelves in the next two years.—Gregory Mone

Via Popular Science