Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Magic of Voice Labeling Systems

By Shannon Ramsay, CFILC’s Information & Assistance Advocate

 How would you like to be able to harness the power of your own voice to help you stay organized at home, at school, or around the office?  There are devices on the market today called voice labeling systems, which allow you to make customized labels by recording your voice on adhesive labels or plastic cards of varying sizes.

One of the voice-labeling systems on the market is called the RNIB PenFriend Voice Labeling System.  The PenFriend was originally introduced by the Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB) in London.  It is a small pen-shaped device between eight and nine inches long with a one gigabyte storage capacity for all the user’s voice notes.  The PenFriend comes with a built-in speaker and microphone as well as four simple buttons for turning the device on and off, controlling the volume, cycling through the device’s menus, and making recordings.  Along with the PenFriend, the user receives print and recorded instructions, batteries, a lanyard, and a USB connector.  The PenFriend also comes with sheets of 127 adhesive labels which are circular or square-shaped.  You will use these adhesive labels together with the pen-shaped device to create your labels.  When you have used up the initial package of labels, you can purchase additional packages of 380 labels.  These packages of replacement labels sell for $25-30 each.  The PenFriend Voice Labeling system sells for $130-150 depending on whether you purchase it on-line from the RNIB website or whether you buy it from Bay Area Digital, Independent Living Aids or the Speak To Me Catalog.

It is not necessary to have access to a computer to make labels with the PenFriend.  You only need to have a computer if you want to transfer music or other audio files onto the PenFriend through the USB connector cable.  The PenFriend can be used as a portable storage device in addition to a labeling system.

 In order to produce a label, you point the pen-shaped device at one of the adhesive labels and hold the record button down while you say what you want to record on the label.  The labels can be as short or as long and detailed as the user wishes to make them.  It is even possible to record over a label which you have already made.  In order to hear a note which you have recorded on a particular label you simply point the pen-shaped device at that label and the PenFriend will play back that recording for you.  The device has all the voice labels which you have created stored on its internal memory chip.

The PenFriend is a handy little device for marking mail, medicine bottles, CD’s and DVD’s, cleaning products, food packages, school projects, and all sorts of other things around the home or office.  This device can help you keep track of important papers or organize a filing system.  Since there is no limit to the length of the message which you can record on one of the PenFriend’s adhesive labels, you can include a recipe or operation instructions as part of the label.  This device is very compact and lightweight so you can take it with you wherever you go in a purse, a backpack, or a briefcase.  The PenFriend is a wonderful device for people who have difficulties remembering things or who do not have the dexterity to create hand-written labels or to operate a print labeler.  The PenFriend is also especially useful for individuals with print-related disabilities or visual impairments.

There is a similar voice-labeling system on the market called the Touch Memo Voice Labeling System.  It operates in essentially the same way as the PenFriend.   There are no real major differences between these voice labeling devices.  The Touch Memo Voice Labeling System comes with more adhesive labels than the PenFriend does as well as plastic tags and washable labels.  The Touch Memo Labeling System has three buttons and a volume wheel.  Unlike the PenFriend, the Touch Memo Labeling system can be recharged by using its power adapter or by connecting it to a computer with a USB connector.  It does not use regular AAA batteries like the PenFriend does.  Also, the Touch Memo Labeling System  has two gigabytes of storage instead of one gigabyte, which the PenFriend has.  In addition, the Touch Memo Voice Labeling System costs $100 more than the PenFriend does.

A third voice labeling system available for purchase is the VoxCom III Voice Labeling System.  This labeling device uses plastic cards on which you can record your voice notes.  The VoxCom III costs $119.95 with 50 plastic cards and $124.95 with 100 plastic cards.  You can record a 10-second note on one of the plastic cards and then play your voice label back by inserting the card into a slot on the VoiceCom III.  You can also record over labels which you have previously made on the plastic cards which come with this device.  This device operates with a 9-volt battery and comes with various mechanisms, such as magnets and rubber bands, for attaching the plastic cards to the things which you want to label. 
Have you ever used a voice-labeling system? If so, tell us about your experience in the comment area below.

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