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QR Codes For Headstones Keep Dearly Departed Close

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Lorie Miller bends over her grandparents' grave in north Philadelphia. She holds a two-inch brass square she's going to attach next to the headstone's names and dates.

Printed onto that square is a QR code — that square digital bar code you can scan with a smartphone. Miller peels off the back of her square to expose the adhesive and pushes it into place. The headstone, which otherwise looks the same as many others around it, has just jumped into the modern age.

Miller hopes other grieving families will do the same. She and her husband, Rick, are launching a new business called Digital Legacys to sell the tags. Visitors to a tagged grave can pull out their smartphones, scan the QR symbol, and be sent to a personalized Web page for the deceased.

"They can just upload the photos to the website and we can build their website for them," Lori Miller says. "They give us a biography of their loved ones, and they can upload videos and backgrounds and music."

The Miller's business isn't the first of its kind; others are already having success selling the codes for similar purposes. "It's just a great technology," she says.

Lori Miller's mother, Marilyn Elias, hopes instead of leaving her own mother's gravesite depressed and teary-eyed, the technology will help her remember the good times with her own mother.

"Now I feel that I come out, and I put my smartphone on, and I can look at my mom and say, 'Mom, what were you thinking when you wore that hairdo years ago?' 'I remember when we bought that dress.' I think you can better feel, and walk away feeling better – maybe even laughing, sometimes," she says.

Rick Miller hopes the technology will keep loved ones' stories alive for future generations. He and Lori lost some relatives recently, which made him think that having more than a headstone to interact with at a cemetery would be a good experience – particularly when they take their young daughter to his parents' gravesite. "She doesn't remember or know anything about them," he says.

And, as Lori Miller points out, the QR codes offer everyone a chance to get to know a stranger whose name or death date makes a passerby curious.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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