A unique barcode-scanning machine, designed for customers with visual impairment, food allergies or special dietary requirements has gone on trial in a busy, Scottish supermarket. Tele-eye reads out nutritional information about supermarket products and gives spoken warnings about common allergy or intolerance ingredients.
Tele-eye was developed as part of PACKAGE, a European project, co-ordinated by Dr David Carus and his team at the University of Strathclyde. “We designed the equipment for use by shoppers who may be elderly, have visual impairments or restricted mobility,” says Dr Carus.
“Recent research carried out by the Royal National Institute for the Blind showed that one in five people can’t read the small print on food labels or medicines. For many people, such as those with food allergies or intolerances, this is a very dangerous situation. As our ageing population is growing all the time, this issue really needs to be addressed.”
Supermarket owner Colin Landsburgh said: “We get one thousand customers every day in the supermarket and Tele-eye is already proving to be very popular. Virtually every elderly customer complains about product packaging, in particular the illegible small print.”
“Recent research carried out by the Royal National Institute for the Blind showed that one in five people can’t read the small print on food labels or medicines.”
David Carus at the University of Strathclyde
Professor John Cummings, nutrition expert at the University of Dundee, said: “I was delighted when Dr Carus approached me about this project. Tele-eye really will empower customers.
Unfortunately, the people who most need access to nutritional information are often the ones who can’t read the labels. Visual impairment and special dietary requirements often go hand in hand such as diabetes.”
The inventors are now having talks with supermarket giant Tesco and are preparing a report for the industry on shoppers’ response to the trial, which ends in October. Academics hope the system can be made portable by using mobile phones connected to barcode reader attachments, allowing users a hand-held method of checking product information.