Companies see potential in stamp-sized bar code

A two-dimensional bar code system originally designed to help blind and partially sighted people access written material is now being developed for its other, and possibly greater, potentials, said developers Kosaido Co. Ltd., a major Japanese printing company, and software development house Original Design Inc.

Using software, 800 written words can be converted into a two-dimensional bar code dubbed an "SP Code" by the developers. The bar code can hold data to enable reproduction as text or braille and, if scanned by companion "Speechio" readers, reproduction as words or sounds. The Speechio is an egg-shaped reader as big as an ostrich egg.

An SP Code, like other two-dimensional bar codes, is made up of many small monochrome dots in a 18-millimeter square. It has a memory capacity of 1,500 bytes, according to Kazunori Notoya, special executive officer for Information Technology Services at Kosaido.

The two companies hope the code will be affixed to articles and advertisements in magazines for consumers to scan and get extra information, either in text or sound, Notoya said.

By the fourth quarter of this year, they plan to produce smaller and handier Speechio modules for consumers and hope to find business partners to get into the market in the first quarter of next year, he said. An English-language version, which can hold about 2,000 words, and a Chinese-language version are expected to be available this year.

He said the companies expect to develop technology that enables visual images to encoded in the SP Code in the near future.

The software and hardware were unveiled at the Electronic Book & Multimedia Fair, the companion of the Tokyo International Book Fair, which ran until Sunday at Tokyo Big Sight.

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