IDEAL Item Identifier

IDEAL Item Identifier is a bundled application that serves as both a “Talking Barcode Reader” and a “Talking Barcode Maker.” The talking barcode reading function enables Android smartphone users to take a picture of standard UPC and QR code and then hear a description of the item being read out loud using a text-to-speech (TTS) voice.

The talking barcode maker function enables Android smartphone users to record an MP3 file that is played when the user scans a “Customized Barcode.” Once the recording process is completed, the application plays the recording back to the user. If the user wishes to re-record it, they can. Once they are happy with the recording and approve it, they are prompted to enter an e-mail address. They then press a “Send” button. This prompts the Android smartphone to generate the “Customized Barcode” referenced above and send it to the individual whose e-mail address was entered into the application.

When the e-mail is received by the recipient, they can print the “Customized Barcode” onto a label and affix it to the intended product. When the user scans the Customized Barcode using “Talking Barcode Reader” the recording they made is played back to them.

This application is open-sourced in support of Raising the Floor

Talking Barcode Reader Video

Talking Barcode Maker Video

What are the voices like?

  • They are high-quality Google PICO Voices.

What are the advantage of using the IDEAL Item Identifier software?

  • It runs on any Android smartphone with a camera;
  • The application is FREE to anyone wanting/needing it;
  • Users with vision impairments no longer have to use dedicated devices.


  1. When IDEAL Item ID is launched, it will prompt you to install “Barcode Scanner” from Android Market (if it is not already installed on your smartphone). Having Barcode Scanner installed is critical to the functionality of IDEAL Item ID. Note: If you are installing Barcode Scanner for the first time it may want to show you a brief tutorial. If you do not wish to view the tutorial click the “done” button. The tutorial only shows up the first time you run Barcode Scanner.
  2. Using your Android smartphone’s camera, Barcode Scanner can scan UPC barcodes and/or QR codes. Once Barcode Scanner successfully scans a barcode it automatically switches back to IDEAL Item ID which reads out the item’s description (if you scanned a UPC code), or the string of text that is embedded inside the QR code (if you scanned a QR code). After it has finished speaking, IDEAL Item ID automatically starts Barcode Scanner again so you can scan another item.
  3. Once you are done scanning items, hit the Back button to quit the application.

Helpful Tips:

  • If you are an individual who is blind, we recommend having someone put a clear piece of tape over the barcodes you wish to scan. We have found that the barcode is still scannable this way, and it is much easier to find.
  • QR codes are an effective way of labelling items that do not have a UPC code or if their UPC code is not found in the UPC database. The easiest way to generate a QR code label is to use an online QR code generator such as Kaywa QR-Code Generator. Choose “Text” as the content type, then type in whatever you want the IDEAL Item ID to say when the QR code is scanned.  Click the “Generate” button, print out the generated QR code, and attach it to the item you wish to label. Note that you can copy the QR code image and paste it into a label template inside your word processor (just like any other image) if you wish to use generic sticky labels.  You can purchase low-cost labels of many sizes at your local office supply store.
  • IDEAL Item Identifier uses your smartphone’s Internet connection to look up item descriptions using an Internet-based UPC Database ( If you have limited/no Internet connectivity, we recommend you create and scan QR codes rather than UPC codes. Since QR codes embed text in the barcode, they do not require Internet connectivity.
  • The easiest way to scan these codes is to put the Android camera directly up against the label and slowly back the Android device away from the item until it recognizes the barcode. This may take a bit of practice to get used to the process. Also, it is easier to scan a barcode if the item is placed on a hard surface. This process is much easier than holding both the item to be scanned, and your Android smartphone, in your hands.


The app is available for free on Android Market – search for “ideal item” (no quotes).

The source code can be downloaded from here.

Credit: NIDRR and Trace R&D Center:

This work is supported in part with funds from the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research, U.S. Department of Education, grant number H133E080022 to the University of