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International Trials For Groundbreaking Scanner.

A device is under development that combines a scanner and labeller with voice output, radio, mp3 player, talking clock, voice recorder and audio book player, for the first time in a single unit.

The TellMate, from Singapore company GaiShan Technology, can read Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) chips embedded in labels on household objects, such as tins of food and clothes. The device can scan these reusable “tagged” labels and “speak” the information stored on them aloud, once the user has pre-recorded the name of the item and any additional information about it, such as sell-by date. Tell Mate is sold with 20 reusable iron-on and adhesive-backed RFID tags.

The device is about the same size and dimensions as a thick remote control and has five main keys for navigating the features menu and buttons on the sides for voice recording, locking the keypad and power. Voice activated buttons tell users which button he or she has pressed.

“It’s simple to use. The buttons are big enough but not bulky,” said Dave Chatten-Smith, founder of the non-profit Hampshire blindness organisation Blink and current UK supplier of the device. “The voice commands are not professionally custom recorded voices, but it’s a very good unit: it’s small, compact; light and it has a good neck strap so you’re not going to lose it,” Chatten-Smith told E-Access Bulletin.

Chin Swee Jeen, of GaiShan Technology told E-Access Bulletin that 100 units have been sold globally. Participants from trials conducted with 50 vision impaired people in Hong Kong, Malaysia and Singapore and 10 in the US have said they prefer to have multiple functions in one gadget. “In this part of the world, new technology requires you to have a new mindset. The difference in accessing information [using] RFID is great. They are so used to having Braille or nothing at all,” said Chin.

The device costs 250 pounds and is available from Chatten-Smith who, although the current UK distributor of the device, is looking for a permanent UK stockist. He found out about TellMate on an assistive technology news website and contacted the company to ask if he could test and distribute it for Singapore-based manufacturer GaiShan Technology. The second version, which is to have a built-in slot for a removable Secure Digital flash memory card format, will be released by winter 2007.


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