Friday, February 01, 2008

Can Barcodes Help the Vision-Impaired?

Peter Abrahams hopes so.

"For anyone who is blind or cannot see well the kitchen can be a real challenge. The first challenge is to know what is in all the similarly shaped tins and packets in the cupboard or fridge/freezer. A related challenge is to know what is written on each of them such as the cooking instructions and ingredients.

..Any packaged product has a barcode so this seems the obvious place to start. So scanning the barcode should provide a key to all the information about the content."

Combine barcodes textured with simple bumps or ridges in the packaging with a text-to-speech doohickey, it seems an easy, elegant solution.

All that's left is for the supermarket industry to get on board with a centralized interactive grocery database. A robotic voice reading "Two three four seven six five five eight two three four five" doesn't help much in deciphering a can of pet food from one of corned beef hash (though the distinction between these two particular examples is debatable).

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