• United States

Datasound prints audio, data on a page

May 08, 20033 mins
Data Center

A German company has figured out to store 50 k/bytes of audio or data on a printed page in a 3 inch by 3/4 inch space using special printing techniques and an ultra sensitive handheld reader. Datasound’s software technology uses standard printers found in the publishing industry to print these small strips that contain 9 million to 10 million dots each. Data contained in the strip could be an audio clip that can be directly played using a built-in speaker on the Reader or data that can be stored in the reader’s memory (168 k/bytes) and transferred to a PC via a USB port.

Why a product like this? The original concept came from one of the company founders who wanted a better way to share hard copy vacation photos. It’s nice to look at the photo, but wouldn’t it be good if there was a voice attached to it to provide context? So for the past couple of years, Datasound has been working on such a technology, but realized there is a much greater potential than just vacation photos.

With the ability to store up to 18 seconds of music, 30 seconds of natural speech and nearly 30 minutes of synthetic speech (which is easier to compress), the possibilities are endless. One deal the company is working on is replacing German TV guides printed in Braille with guides that use the strips in stead. Using tactile guides, the TV guide owner places the reader over a strip and gets an audio description of the show, time and channel. Children’s books are another area of potential sales. Strips of containing sounds that correspond with the pictures on a page could help the learning process. Datasound employees use the strips on the back of their business cards – each containing a piece of music representative of the person. If the technology becomes popular, salespeople could use the strip to store an Excel spreadsheet with pricing information. Give the potential customer your card and they’ve got all the information they need to make a purchasing decision. Security is another aspect the company is delving into. The strips could be printed on the back of an employee ID badge as a means of verifying the person’s identity.

Datasound is just now entering the US market. It sells the software used to compress the data and create a TIFF image of the strip, which can then be used in any page layout program. Currently, the technology support three printing methods: Offset, print proofs and laser engraving. Other print techniques are currently being tested. The software costs about $345 and can be used on a single machine or a network setting. There is a minimal royalty for each strip printed. The base reader will retail for about $205.