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Breaking ground with printable sound

Ken Berkun, Founder, Labels That Talk Ltd.

Beep! That’s the sound you usually hear when you scan a barcode. But a new barcode being developed by Ken Berkun, founder of Kailua-based startup Labels That Talk Ltd., will be making much more noise than that. Berkun, who has been designing special barcodes that, when scanned, play back short segments of recorded sound, says his software and designs will first hit the shelves at scrapbooking stores.

The scanner/ recorder:

This generates barcodes when a user records a conversation, message, note, greeting or any other sound. Once connected to a printer, the barcode can be made. A simple wave of the device over the barcode will reproduce the sound in less than a second. The scanner doesn’t store any information for playback; instead it generates the sound solely from the data in the barcode.

The barcode:

These high-density, two-dimensional barcodes hold all the data of a particular sound within their matrices of black dots. The barcodes can be made from any inkjet printer with standard ink cartridges that can print at least 300 dots per inch. Depending on the quality of the paper, 10 to 20 seconds of sound can be recorded. Berkun says the barcodes are quite durable, and can still work after minor rips, folds or spills. And if half is missing, you can still listen to the remaining portion.



Berkun is initially targeting the scrapbooking and pharmaceutical industries. Talking labels can be used in place of photo captions, or they can record the sounds of the photo subjects themselves. He says a picture of the bride and groom is nice, but hearing them say, “I do,” is even better. Berkun adds that a pill bottle label with a doctor’s plain-English explanation of a medical routine can make prescription instructions less confusing,
reducing the number of medical accidents. With numerous other uses, like greeting cards, children’s books and aids for the visually impaired, Berkun says, “The biggest problem is that there are too many applications.”
— Casey Chin


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Hawaii Business,September