|Publication number||USRE38965 E1|
|Application number||US 09/747,274|
|Publication date||Jan 31, 2006|
|Filing date||Dec 21, 2000|
|Priority date||Mar 20, 1992|
|Publication number||09747274, 747274, US RE38965 E1, US RE38965E1, US-E1-RE38965, USRE38965 E1, USRE38965E1|
|Inventors||James C. Ashby, III, Roy G. Tiemann|
|Original Assignee||Chips International, Inc.|
|Export Citation||BiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan|
|Patent Citations (39), Referenced by (6), Classifications (3), Legal Events (2)|
|External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet|
1. Field of the Invention
This invention relates to an apparatus, system and method for recording and/or retrieving audio information. It particular, the apparatus, system and method hereof acts as an audio label for voice identifying a product to which the label can be attached.
2. Description of the Relevant Art
Identity, contents and instructions for use or assembly of a product are often written in a manual associated with the product or on a label attached to the product. Written information in manuals or on labels are provided on almost every product available to help the consumer or user of the product identify the product and the proper use of that product. While written information is satisfactory for the majority of people, written information is sometimes meaningless to the visually impaired or illiterate consumer. Pursuant to Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990, and similar regulations relating thereto, counseling of impaired consumers as to certain products may require that information regarding the product be presented in other than written form.
As the expected life span of the population increases, the number of elderly people who are visually impaired also increases. Often times, elderly people have difficulty reading simple instructions regarding the products necessary for their continued well being. Such products certainly would include prescription medicants having labels which dictate time and quantity of dosage. Moreover, immigrants, or people of which the native language is unrecognizable or is their second language, those people require help in understanding information about a product. Often times, immigrants learn to speak their new language before they can read or write the language. Similar to elderly people, immigrants may also find it less difficult to recognize and understand audio information as opposed to counter-part written information.
With the rapid rise in both immigrant and elderly population, it is important that product information be brought to their attention in a simple, easily recognizable fashion. Misinformation regarding attain products could prove hazardous to the ill-informed buyer or user. It is therefore important that the information being fed to the user or buyer be one that he or she is most familiar with and therefore can, be more easily recognized.
The problems outlined above are in large part solved by the apparatus, system and method of the present invention. That is, the recording and/or retrieving apparatus, system and method hereof provides easily recognizable audio information to the buyer or user about the product of interest. The present invention uses an audio label which can be adapted for and attached or attachable to various products. Voice or audio information can be transmitted and stored inside the label for subsequent playback or retrieval by the consumer. A manufacturer, instructor, or even the consumer himself can record his voice concerning the product and place that voice information inside the label for subsequent playback by the consumer. Alternatively, the manufacturer, instructor, or consumer can record his voice concerning the product corresponding to a bar code placed upon the product. The bar code can be read and audio information corresponding to that bar code be output to the consumer as an instructional device using existing bar code labels associated with many off-the-shelf products. Using either technique, i e., an audio label which contains voice information or a bar code which can access voice information, the consumer can rapidly assimilate familiar voice information concerning the product instead of running the risk of misreading a conventional written label. Not only is the audio labeling apparatus, system and method hereof more convenient for the end user, but it is also more easily input and, if need be, changed by the manufacturer, instructor or consumer. In the dynamic world to which we live, rapid communication of information is necessary to meet the growing demands in the marketplace.
Broadly speaking, the present invention contemplates an instructional apparatus comprising a label which can be attached to a product. As used herein, “product” includes any commodity having an outer packaged configuration of various size and shape. The product may include, e.g., consumable or non-consumable goods which may be contained in a package or bottle. An exemplary consumable good may include prescription or non-prescription medicine, etc. Non-consumable goods may include any good which is packaged with a label, manual or has a warning as to proper operation or use of the good.
According to one embodiment of the present invention, the label includes a microphone mounted proximate to the external surface of the label to aid in converting an identifying vocal message to an electrical signal. A storage device may be operatively coupled to the microphone to sequentially receive and store the electrical signal. The storage device can operate in either analog or digital format. If the storage device stores analog format information, an analog input filter is used to receive the electrical signal and at least two sample and hold circuits are coupled to sequentially receive an analog format of the electrical signal. An array of addressable storage calls can be addressed to programmably write the analog format in a page addressed methodology. Alternatively, the storage device may operate in digital format using an analog input filter with sample and hold circuits placed on the input of an analog-to-digital converter. The analog-to-digital converter an receive the analog format and convert the analog format to digital format. An array of addressable storage cells can then programmably write or read the digital format into or from select calls.
According to one aspect of the above embodiment, a record switch may be mounted on the outer surface of the label. Upon activation, the record switch initiates the storage cycle such that the vocal message is transmitted from the microphone mounted upon the outer surface of the label to the storage device located within the label.
In accordance with another embodiment of the present invention, the label need not include a microphone. Instead, the label receives an electrical signal sent from a programming unit remotely placed from the label. Accordingly, the label may include at least one electrode mounted on the outer surface of the label and a storage device coupled to the electrodes to sequentially receive and store an electrical signal sent from the remote programming unit. Thus, the remote programming unit is separate from the label and can access the label either remotely or by physical contact with the label. The programming unit includes a microphone and a record switch foe transmitting the vocal message into the storage device when the record switch is activated. Electrical signals from the microphone can be sent over a transmission path to the electrodes mounted on the outer surface of the label. The transmission path may include either an optical transmission path or physical connection between the label electrodes and the programming unit.
According to one aspect of either of the above embodiments, the vocal message stored within the label can be addressed and retrieved in a form substantially near its original format. The retrieved vocal message is sent to the consumer as telephone quality voice indicative of the identifiable characteristics associated with the product. The vocal message is retrieved from the storage device and sent to a speaker which receives a stored electrical signal from the device and converts the signal to a telephone quality voice signal substantially similar to the original vocal message placed within the device. Thus, the output voice signal is not internally synthesized. Instead, the output voice signal is simply the original voice message recalled in a form substantially similar to the original form. Similar to the microphone, the speaker can be associated with either the label or it can be mounted separate from the label on a remote programming unit. If the microphone and speaker are placed on the label, the label is self-contained and the remote programming unit is not needed. Conversely, if the microphone and speaker an placed on or connected to a remote programming unit, the label can be made much smaller since it need not contain the microphone, speaker and many of the other record/retrieval elements. A remote programming unit is therefore useful whenever the label must be small or inexpensive. A single remote programming unit can therefore be used with numerous labels to record and retrieve information into and from each label. Also, the record and playback function may be separated onto different units to restrict unauthorized programming of the label. Thus, one unit can only record and the other unit can only playback the recorded information.
According to yet another embodiment of the present invention, the label includes a bar code label attachable to a product. A vocal message can be recorded into a storage device corresponding to the bar code label. The storage device is remote from the bar code label and upon reading the bar code label, the vocal message stored therein is reproducibly retrieved so as to indicate the identifiable characteristics associated with the product. Therefore, according to this embodiment of the present invention, bar code information commonly placed upon existing products can be read and corresponding vocal message associated with the bar code can be output to the consumer. When a bar code is read from a product, bar code digital information is sent to the storage device which then activates a pre-programmed vocal message within a voice recorder and sends that message to a speaker which then reproduces the recorded message as telephone quality audio output.
The present invention also contemplates an audio labeling system including both a label and a remote programming unit for recording information into the label or retrieving information from the label via the programming unit. The label of the audio labeling system includes electrodes and a storage device or voice recorder mounted proximate to or within the label. The programming unit includes a record switch that, when activated, allows a vocal message to be written into the storage device and a play switch that, when activated, allows a stored electrical signal to be read into a speaker mounted on the outer surface of the unit.
According to one aspect of the audio labeling system, the remote programming unit can communicate with the electrodes using a transmission path (e.g., optical, infrared, etc.) which allows the label and remote programming unit to communicate with each other. According to another aspect of the system, the remote programming unit includes at least one lead on the outer surface of the unit which can be physically contacted or connected to at least one electrode on the outer surface of the label. Accordingly, whenever programming or reprogramming is desired, the operator merely brings the remote programming unit in optical, infrared or physical contact with the label to either place one or more voice messages within the label or read from the label current voice messages.
The present invention also contemplates a method for audio labeling a product. The method includes the steps of attaching a label bearing an audio recorder to a product. Audio signals or vocal messages can be sent to the label where those signals are then recorded within the recorder. Upon demand, the audio signals can be subsequently retrieved from the recorder to, for example, audibly discern the contents of that product.
According to one aspect of the present method, changes in audio signals can be reprogrammed into the recorder to indicate a change in product to which the label is affixed. Thus, a label can be attached to a product such as a bottle of prescription medicine and, after the medicine has been fully used, the label can be reprogrammed and placed on a different bottle of medicine having the attached label reprogrammed indicating a different instructions for use. The present invention can therefore be used to identify any characteristic associated with the product, including product type, contents of the product or pertinent instructions for use. Of course, all these characteristics being delivered in an easily recognizable verbal format from an audio storage device or recorder which may be affixed to the product itself.
Other objects and advantages of the invention will become apparent upon reading the following detailed description and upon reference to the accompanying drawings to which:
While the invention is susceptible to various modifications and alternative forms, the specific embodiment thereof has been shown by way of example in the drawings and will herein be described in detail. It should be understood, however, that the drawings are not intended to limit the invention to the particular form disclosed, but on the contrary, the intention is to cover all modifications, equivalence and alternatives thereof which fall within the spirit and scope of the invention as defined by the appended claims.
Turning now in the drawings,
Also associated with label 12a are a plurality of sound channels or ports 16 arranged radially inward around the circumference of label 12a. Sound ports 16 allow retrieved voice information to exit label 12a when play/record button 18 is activated in a play mode. Play/record button 18 can be a two-way switch for enabling either a play mode or a record mode. If button 18 is placed in a play mode, then voice information stared within label 12a can be played or retrieved through sound ports 16. Conversely, if play/record button 18 is activated in a record mode, then sound information can be sent to and recorded within label 12a via microphone 16.
While any form of coupling or attachment between label 12a and product 10 falls within the scope of this invention,
Label 12a as well as alternative embodiments of labels 12b and 12c, etc. may also include an earplug jack or adaptor 22. Adaptor 22 can receive a male end of an earplug of common design. The earplug (not shown) can be inserted into the user's ear to aid those who are hearing impaired.
Tapered collar 20 allows product 10 to be slid between the outwardly resilient inside walls 32 of collar 20. Tapered collar 20 is intended to be the same geometrical shape as a portion of product 10 regardless of the general shape of that product.
Extending inward from port 16 is a sound baffle area 34 used to distribute the sound from speaker 36 contained within speaker chamber 38. Speaker chamber 38 thereby not only houses speaker 36, but also creates the sound waves that escape label 12a through sound ports 16.
Coupled to microphone 14 and play/record button 18 is a storage device 24. Storage device 24 may include a single integrated circuit or several integrated circuits (with or without additional discrete components) placed on a PC board 28. PC board 28 serves as routing of conductors placed therein. Each conductor is selectively connected to various input/output pins associated with microphone 14, play/record button 18 and/or speaker 36. As will be described below, input from microphone 14 and play/record button 18 activates recording of voice information into storage device 24. In addition, input from device 24 and from play/record button 18 activates speaker 36 for subsequent dispersion from label 12a through sound ports 16.
Associated with the recording and retrieval of voice information to and from storage device 24, is a power source or battery pack 40 shown in FIG. 4. Batteries of battery pack 40 can be interchanged via a cap 42 removably secured at one end of label 12a.
Shown as a front view along plane 5—5 of
Although conductive electrodes 26 are preferred, other transmissive receptors may he used to transient or receive information from a remote programming unit 46 described below. Because low-profile label 12b contains only electrical storage and access means and does not contain only all the necessary elements to store and retrieve voice information, various elements to achieve such functions are placed on remote programming unit 46 as shown in FIG. 8. Programming unit 46 can communicate via electrodes 26 to and from storage unit 24. Programming unit 46 may contain matching electrodes or leads 48, as shown in FIG. 8. Leads 48 may couple to electrodes 26 similar to a male/female coupling or, alternatively, can simply contact male-to-male. Still further, electrodes 26 and leads 28 can function as optical receivers and detectors to send voice information over an optical transmission path. Still further, other forms of transmission may be used such as, e.g., infrared, character recognition and/or bar code reader (as described below).
Once addressed via central and timing logic associated with sequencer 60, electrical signals stored within array 58 are output to speaker 36. Control and timing logic within sequencer 60 also provides necessary owing for input of record (or write) information as opposed to output of retrieved (or read) information.
By using a remote programming unit 46, similar to that shown in
Instead of a single play/record button 18 placed on the label 12a, as shown in
Although compete analog format is preferred, a digital format may be used similar to that shown in FIG. 10. In particular, sample-and-hold analog input can be converted by analog-to-digital converter 66 to a digital format. Digital information can then be stored in an array of storage cells 68 of conventional design, preferably a RAM exceeding one Megabit in size. Power can be supplied from battery pack 40 to refresh data stored therein. A clock address sequencer 60 may also be used to provide correct row and column sequence and addressing scheme. Upon retrieval, stored digital information is sent from storage cells 68 to digital-to-analog converter 70 which then amplifies the analog signal for proper reading by speaker 36. Alternative storage elements, other than RAM, may be used to store the digital information, including, but not limited to, static, dynamic, EEPROM, flash, core, bubble, light wave, magnetic, masked ROM a CD ROM. Clock address sequencer 60 orchestrates the memory address sequencing for play to record of the voice information. During the playback mode, the digital-to-analog converter 70 receives sequential information from the storage device 68 and converts this data into analog electrical signals readable by speaker 36.
Other digital techniques such as a digital signal processor (not shown) using a suitable voice coder/decoder algorithm such as, but not limited to, continuously variable slope delta modulation (CVSD), sub-band coders, or coded excited linear prediction (CELP) can also be implemented in the present digital design shown in FIG. 10. An exemplary encoder/decoder is Texas Instrument part No. TMS3477NL, an exemplary analog filter is Texas Instrument part No. TSP66C61NL and an exemplary memory device is Texas Instrument part No. TMS62256. Moreover, a suitable flash memory device may be useable as storage cells 68, and is produced by INTEL Corp., part No. I48F512. An advantage of flash memory is that, contrary to dynamic RAM, flash memory cells, once programmed, need not be continuously refreshed.
If digital conversion and storage techniques are used, a digital signal processor (DSP) may be employed. A suitable DSP is part No. TMS320C10 manufactured by Texas Instruments, Inc. An exemplary analog-to-digital converter or digital-to-analog converter is manufactured by Analog Devices, Inc., part No. AD7569. A digital signal processor combined with proper A/D or D/A converters could be combined with a suitable memory device such as those mentioned above, and using a sub-band coder algorithm as described in T. P. Barnwell, et al., “A real time speech sub-band coder using the TMS32010”, IEEE Southcon (1984).
According to another embodiment of the instructional apparatus of the present invention, a bar code reader may be used to convert universal bar-code formats commonly printed on a bar-code label 72 into digital signals that can be interpreted by a terminal 74 remote from product 10 onto which label 72 is affixed. Terminal 74 can be placed at the point-of-sale area or it can be hand-held and usable by a consumer when browsing the shelves containing product 10. Thus, a consumer can rapidly assimilate vocal messages stored within hand-held terminal 74 by merely scanning bar code labels 72 arranged on the shelves. The consumer can thereby listen to recorded vocal messages placed within terminal 74 which identify the unique product upon which the bar code label is attached. Identifiable characteristics such as the contents of the product, type of product or instructions for use of the product being scanned are all verbally delivered to the consumer to aid his or her recognition of the product's preferred use. While conventional bar code systems identify products, the information is generally limited to the product name and/or price. Moreover, voice information retrieved from conventional bar code systems are generally computer synthesized and not actual reproduced human voice recordable by the manufacturer, instructor or consumer as in the present invention. The familiarity of a human voice (possibly the user's own voice) provides a substantial advantage over synthesized voice. Not only is actual recorded voice clearer than synthesized voice, but it can be recorded in, for example, the user's foreign language in a form familiar to the user.
When bar code 72 is read, digital information from the bar code activates a pre-programmed vocal message stored within terminal 74 concerning any information which is deemed necessary by the programmer, and which could be made available in a plurality of languages selectable by the user. Vocal messages can be reprogrammed by adding a suitable record circuit. Features such as automatic tabulation of the cost of the products, display price, special product promotions, advertising, instructional information about the product, reduced price information, etc. may also be added.
Digital bar code, i.e., a stamp-sized patch of alternating thick and thin stripes with different spacings on a white background imprint, is a highly effective alternative to keyboard data entry. Bar-code scanning is faster and more accurate than key entry, optical character recognition and magnetic stripe encoding. Furthermore, bar code offers significant advantages and flexibility of media, simple placement and is relatively immune to electromagnetic fields. Still further, bar code information is generally placed on products sent from the manufacturer to the wholesale or retail stores and thereby generally available to consumers at the checkout line or while browsing the store shelves. Almost all products that are widely distributed for sale are now marked with bar codes. Retail stores or consumers themselves have access to bar code 72 via a central computer 78 placed within terminal 74. The computer can access vocal information regarding product 10 stored in memory and sends the information to terminals 74 for vocal reproduction and possibly display. Central computer 70 78 accesses bar code 72 using what is commonly called a wand 80. The hand-held wand 80 contains an optical LED sensor sensitive to 655 nanometer (nm) visible red light, 700 nm visible red light and 820 nm infrared energy, a photodetector IC (integrated circuit), and precision aspheric optics. A suitable hand-held wand 80 may be purchased from Hewlett Packard Corporation, Part Nos. HBCR, HBCS, HEDS, and/or 16800A. Regardless of which bar code wand 80 is chosen, wand 80 interfaces with central computer 78 placed upon hand-held or point-of-sale terminal 74. Central computer 78 accesses various memory medium media such as hand disk drive 81, CD ROM 82, floppy disk or RAM card 84 as shown in
If the amount of vocal information is extremely large, drive 80 81, ROM 82 and floppy or RAM card 84 can be placed at a remote site with access using electrode-lead contacts, radio-linked or infrared-linked transmissive paths as described above so that the hand-held unit can be made fairly small. CD ROM can store large amounts of digital audio information necessary to include substantial information concerning all the possible products to which bar code labels may identify. Audio information concerning all necessary information regarding a product can be quite lengthy and thereby requires large amounts of storage medium provided by the present invention.
Terminal 74 operates according to a simple addressing or matching methodology wherein wand 80 is scanned across code 72. Computer 78 then searches its memory (i.e., hard disk drive 80, CD ROM 82 or floppy/RAM card 84) for a bar code and verbal message match. When a match is found, computer 78 transfers the appropriate stored digital data to a digital voice decoder 90. The decoded information is then converted into soundwaves by speaker 36 for identification by the listener/user.
The foregoing description of the present invention has been directed to particular embodiments. It will be apparent, however, to those skilled in the art that modifications and changes in either the apparatus, system and/or method may be made without departing from the scope and spirit of the invention. Therefore, it is the Applicants' intention that the following claims cover all such equivalent modifications and variations which fall within the true spirit and scope of this invention.
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|Jun 8, 2006||FPAY||Fee payment|
Year of fee payment: 8
|Jun 8, 2010||FPAY||Fee payment|
Year of fee payment: 12