By Curtis Chong
Just about everything you buy these days has a unique bar code identifier. If a person has access to the appropriate data base, this bar code can be tremendously helpful to identify a product whose label is otherwise read visually.
A number of devices are on the market today that enable people who are blind or visually impaired to scan bar codes to identify food items and many other products. The most well-known of these is the i.d. mate Summit from En-Vision America, which costs around $1,299. The i.d. mate Summit is portable, and it does not require an Internet connection when a product is scanned.
Because I did not want to spend $1,299 for the ability to be able to identify a product by its bar code, I searched around for a cheaper albeit less convenient alternative, and wouldn’t you know, I found it. I came across a bar code scanner sold by a company called A T Guys. The Metrologic Fusion Bar Code Scanner sells for under $300. It is an omnidirectional scanner, meaning that it only has to face the bar code in order to see it. The scanner is connected to the computer through a USB port, and there is no software to be installed. One simply opens the www.bcscan.com web page, positions the cursor over an edit box, and points the scanner at a barcode. The result is a page of information about the product–information which often includes very specific directions for the use of that product. The only cost incurred is for the scanner itself. Everything else is free.
I have used my bar code scanner to identify a wide variety of products, including food items, sun tan lotion, toothpaste, soda, musical CD’s, and DVD’s. Just about everything I have scanned could be identified, and for the items that were not recognized, I was given the option to enter the information into the website so that I and others would recognize the same item should it ever be scanned again. As far as identifying music CD’s and DVD’s, I was pleasantly surprised to find that in many cases, a full track listing came along with the results of the scan.
In conclusion, while the bar code scanner from A T Guys is less costly than the i.d. mate Summit ($299 versus $1,299), it does require an active Internet connection and a computer, and it is highly unlikely that a person will want to bring a computer to the kitchen, where most product scanning is likely to occur.