The technology was going to change how people surfed for information. Instead, Digital:Convergence's CueCat handheld scanner and its accompanying CRQ software ( www.crq.com ) are holding on for each of their nine lives.
CRQ--which began shipping in Mac form early this summer--gathers Web addresses via the Cue-Cat. About the size of a mouse but shaped like a cat, the scanner reads "cues" in broadcast and print materials, and CRQ then directs consumers to related Web sites.
Say you're flipping through a magazine and you see an ad with a CueCat symbol. You take the scanner--connected to your Mac via a USB cable--and run it over the ad. Doing so would open a relevant Web site in a browser window on your Mac.
Digital:Convergence says the CueCat eliminates entering long addresses and hunting for Web pages. No word on how that works if you don't read magazines or watch TV while tethered to your computer.
Shortly after the June release of CRQ's Mac version, Digital:Convergence announced massive layoffs, which it said won't affect its products. At press time, the CueCat reader was available free (there is a shipping and handling charge) from the company's Web site.
But even if this CueCat concept goes the way of the saber-toothed tiger, it may find new uses, thanks to enterprising hackers who've rewired their CueCats to do everything from reading bar codes to looking up ISBN numbers on Amazon.com.