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Digit-Eyes: Identify and Organize Your World

Label FAQ
This page answers common questions about Digit-Eyes labels.

Q. What is printed on the Digit-Eyes labels?
A.  A square, machine-readable digital code.  This is called, by convention, a "bar code" because the original digital codes of this type were composed of vertical bars of varying widths.  Digit-Eyes uses ISO/IEC18004 standard bar codes, sometimes called "QR" or "Quick Response" codes. The term "QR code" is a trademark of Denso-Wave, Incorporated. These bar codes actually look like squares full of black-and-white dots with little targets on three of the four corners.

Q. My labels are oblong, not square.   How do I know where the code is?
A.  The location of the physical label is readily apparent by touch. The Digit-Eyes code is always printed exactly in the middle of the physical label.

Q. Do I have to print a full sheet of labels at once?
A.  Yes and no.  Audio labels print in full sheets; you control the number of text labels that you want to print.

Q. How many characters can each label hold?
A.  50 on the very small ones, up to 250 on the larger ones.

Q. Do bigger labels hold more information?
A.  Yes.

Q.  Which labels are best?
A.  It depends on what you plan to do with them. 

Size: The primary factor associated with label size is the scan distance, or how close you have to be to scan it.  A larger label allows you to scan from farther away, but you have to be to scan it, because the camera on your phone needs to get an image of the whole label.  Using the iPhone 3Gs, labels that are 1 in / 2.5 cm tall will be read at 2 - 6 in / 5 - 15 cm.   Labels that are 4 in / 10 cm tall can be read from roughly 2 feet / half a meter.  Depending on what you are doing, you may want to buy more than one size of label. The scan distance is about double with the iPhone 4/4s and the new iPad (sometimes called the iPad 3). And it is about double again with the iPhone 5 and the iPod Touch 5 -- you'll be able to recognize labels that are 1 in / 2.5 cm in size from about 2 feet / 60 cm.

Materials: There are also differences in the material from which the label is made.  Some labels can be printed on either an inkjet or laser printer.  Labels made specifically for inkjet printers should not be used in laser printers  because the adhesive may fail and the labels may come off in the printer.   Labels made specifically for laser printers may not accept the inkjet ink as well as the labels designed for use in the inkjet.

Standard labels stick extremely well to most surfaces; repositionable labels can be easily removed and may not be what you want for long-term storage.

Q. What will the labels stick to?
A.  They stick best to dry surfaces.   Avery-Dennison (the manufacturer) states: "The adhesive used on white laser labels is an acrylic emulsion-based permanent adhesive. This type of adhesive is suitable for general purpose adhesion to most papers, envelopes, corrugated shipping containers, file folders, bare and painted metal, polypropylene and polyethylene bags."   The labels also readily stick to themselves, which allows them to be folded over and used to label items like yarn (making sure, of course, not to fold the bar code in half!) 

For more information from Avery about labels, click here.

Q.  Can I use the labels on items of all shapes?
A.  We recommend using them on flat surfaces.   The autofocus cameras do not render an accurate image on curved surfaces where the total amount of curvature is more than half an inch / 1 cm. What does this mean in practical terms? In testing, we found that labels on the curved side of a 1.5 liter wine bottle were readable while labels on the curved side of the smaller 750 ml wine bottle were much harder to scan.  As a result, we put our labels on the bottom of the wine bottles that we were keeping in the rack (better for the wine to be on its side, anyhow)!

In practice, most items have at least one flat side.  The only item that we were not able to find any surface where we could place a label and have it be readable was a croquet ball.  And we really didn't want to label that...

Q.  What is the shelf life of the labels?
A.  Avery says "This can vary greatly depending on environmental conditions (heat, humidity, etc.) but usually 2-3 years. However, if a person's definition of 'shelf life' is really 'life span,' Laser & Ink Jet labels have a life span of 10 - 15 years."

Q. Will the labels come off?
A.  Not easily.  They are designed to withstand handling by the equipment at the post office without coming loose.  Extreme heat or cold on a continuing basis may affect the adhesive, but we put the labels on items in the attic and in the freezer and they are still stuck on tightly and readable after a year.

Q. Should I reuse labels?
A.  No.  The labels are designed for one time use.  The adhesive on the back doesn't work as well the second time. In practice, you will find that the labels stick so well that they are actually very difficult to remove in one piece. And they are cheap enough that you don't have to.

Q. Can the labels be washed?
A.  Yes, if you laminate them.  We have found that ordinary labels can be laminated using off-the-shelf plastic lamination material and that they survive many washings. You can also buy special labels from us that are printed on a material that will withstand dish washing and go through the clothes washer or dry cleaners. See the separate FAQ on washing and clothing labels.


Q. What is an audio label and how does one work?
A.  Digit-Eyes text labels are a particular kind of barcode label that you create on the Digit-Eyes website and print on the printer attached to your computer system. Each audio label is unique.  The audio label is the key that you use to record and retrieve a recorded message on your phone.

When you initially print an audio label, it is just an empty serial number. When you stick an audio label on something and scan it with the Digit-Eyes on application your phone, you'll be invited to make a recorded message.  The Digit-Eyes application then will store your recorded message on your phone.  When you use the Digit-Eyes application on your phone to scan the label later, the audio content that was saved on your phone is played back to you.

After playing a recorded message, you can change the recording, leave it as it is or delete it completely.

Q. What are the advantages of audio labels over text labels?
Audio labels are useful when you don't know exactly what you will be labeling or where you want a lot of content.  You can, for instance, use them to record  long "post-it" notes to yourself.   The recording associated with an audio label is naturally private because it is stored on your phone and only accessible when the Digit-Eyes application on your phone is used to scan the label again.

This is different from a text label where you type content into the label and your phone voices that content to you.

Q. So the "audio" for the audio label is stored on my phone?
A. Yes.  In fact, it does not take a connection to the host computer to record, play back or re-record an audio label.

Q.  Can I change a recording?
A.  Yes. Every time you use the Digit-Eyes application on your phone to scan a label and play back a message, you are given an option to change the recording. To do so, just click the "record" button and make a new message. The new message becomes the one that is retrieved when the code is scanned again.

Q. What is the length limitation of an audio label?
A label 1,000 hours long will use about half the storage on the iPhone that has 16Gb of memory.  We believe it is unlikely you'll want a label that long, but it is certainly possible.

Q. How many audio labels can I have?
The only limit to the number of labels you can have is the amount of storage on your phone.   In practice, most labels are between 15 seconds and 1 minute in length.  Given an average length of 30 seconds, this means you could have 120,000 messages on the 16GB iPhone and roughly 500,000 messages on the 64GB phone.

Q. Will my labels use up the storage on my phone? How do I get rid of an audio label I don't want?
A. After using the Digit-Eyes application on the phone to play the message, just click the "delete" button to remove it from the storage of your phone.  If you have, for instance, used up a can of something and are putting the container in the recycling, scan the label one last time as you put the can in the bin.  After the recording plays, click "delete" and the recording will be erased.

Q.  Fine, so I want some -- how do I get audio labels?
A.  There are several ways to go about this

  1. If you need washable labels that you can sew into garments, click here
  2. If you'd like to buy some preprinted labels and have them mailed to you, click here.
  3. If you are printing labels your own, you'll need to start by getting some blank address labels. Click here for a list of the labels you can use. Then, using your free account on the Digit-Eyes website, you'll be able request audio labels from the Digit-Eyes website for the size of address label that you purchased. The Digit-Eyes website will give you a PDF file that contains the codes you requested, formatted so that they will fit on your sheet of labels. Using your own computer printer, you will simply print the PDF file on one of the sheets of address labels. Click here for the tutorial on creating audio labels

In all cases, when you want to label something, just stick a label on the item you want to identify and scan the label with the Digit-Eyes application on your phone. Digit-Eyes will prompt you to make a recorded message for that label and will save the recording in the storage on your phone.   When you use the Digit-Eyes application on your phone to scan the label later, the audio message you recorded is played back.

Q.  Is there a separate charge for making labels on the website?
A.  No.

Q. When I make Digit-Eyes audio labels, will I need to specify anything to be put on the label?
A.  No.

Q.  But there is something on the label.  What is it?
A.  A long, unique serial number (the labels look alike to humans, but they are actually all different.)

Q.  What are the serial numbers used for?
A.  They are the key that is used to store your message on your phone and to retrieve it.

Q.  Do I need to specify a starting value for the serial numbers for my audio labels?
A.  No.  The system manages this and makes sure that no serial number is issued twice.

Q.  Do serial numbers have to be unique?
A.  Each number is issued only once, but there are times that you might want to use the same number on more than one item. The same number will retrieve the same recording.  This could be to your advantage in some situations:

  • Labeling CD's is an example of this -- it is handy to have the identical number on the CD itself and on outside of the case.  That way, when the CD is out of the case, you know which one it is.
  • Leftovers are another case.  Put one label on the container and record what is in it and when it was stored. Put a matching label on a post-it note and stick it to your fridge. You can then simply scan the post-it notes to find out what is in your fridge.
  • Washing labels are another example. If you create two identical labels and stick them back-to-back before encasing them, you'll be able to scan the tag from both sides.
You will probably think of other cases where this might be handy.

Q.  How do I make multiple copies of the same label?
A.  The label file you get is a PDF.   Just print it more than once.

Q.  What if I want to label a bunch of the same thing with the same recording -- like putting the content and date purchased on each container of a six-pack of yogurt?  Do I have to record each label individually?
A.  No.   Digit-Eyes remembers the recording you used last and lets you copy it to a new label.  Scan the label that has the recording you want to copy and listen to at least part of the recording to make sure it is the one you wan (or just do the recording for the first item).   Put a new label on the next item, scan it and just click the button to tell Digit-Eyes to copy the prior recording to the new label.

Q.  Can other people retrieve my recordings?
A.  No; the recording is stored only on your phone and in your iTunes backup library, so the content is private to you.

Q.  What if I lose my phone? Will my labels be lost too?
A.  No; when you backup your phone to iTunes, a copy of all information on your phone is saved -- including your labels. If something happens to your iPhone and you end up getting a new one, when you first hook the replacement phone up to iTunes, it will ask you if you want to restore from your backup. The correct answer in this case is "Yes".

Q.  What if I decide to get rid of my phone? Are the audio labels retrievable?
A.  No.  The recordings are on your phone and iTunes, so if you get rid of your iPhone, you'll effectively be getting rid of the recordings as well (although you could retrieve them from your iTunes backup if you changed your mind and replaced the phone.)

Q.  How do I know if a label has been used?
A.  Scan it with the Digit-Eyes application on your phone. If it has been used, you'll hear your recording.

Q.  Will Digit-Eyes run out of serial numbers?
A.  Not anytime soon.  The serial numbers can be as long as 100 digits.   That is a very big number; enough to make Digit-Eyes labels for every grain of sand on Earth -- and have enough left over to do the planet Mars as well!




Q. What is a text label and why would I make one?
A.  Text labels contain text rendered into bar code format.  When you request text labels from the website, you'll be able to specify up to 100 characters of content to be encoded in each label.  When you scan them with the Digit-Eyes application on your phone, text labels are simply read out loud to you by your phone.

Q. What are the advantages of text labels over audio labels?
A. Text labels are useful when you know in advance what you want the label to say or where you want to share content (perhaps inventory tags or labels that identify critical household papers.) The content associated with a text label is public because anyone who has Digit-Eyes on their phone can read it.

Q. How do I get text labels?
A.  Using inexpensive address labels that are available at office supply stores, at "Big-Box" stores like Wal-Mart or online, you print them yourself on the printer attached to your computer. So, first, you'll need to get some blank address labels. Click here for a list of the labels you can use.   There are two steps in making and using a text label:

  1. Using your free account on the Digit-Eyes website, you'll be able request text bar codes for the size of address label that you purchased.   When you request text labels on the website, you'll see a sheet of input boxes that are organized like the labels you bought and you'll be able to type up to 100 characters of text for each label.  The Digit-Eyes website will give you a PDF file that contains the codes you requested and the file will be formatted so that the codes will fit exactly on your sheet of labels. Using your own computer printer, you will simply print the PDF file on one of the sheets of address labels.
  2. Labeling is simple.  Just stick the label on the item you want identified.  When you use the Digit-Eyes application on your phone to scan the label, the phone will read and voice the content of your label to you.

Q. How to I specify the contents of a text label?
A.  After you tell the system what kind of labels you have, you'll get an input form on the screen that is organized the same way as your sheet of labels.  There is an input box for each label.  Type into each box whatever you want to be encoded into that particular label.

Q. Do I have to fill in all the boxes?
A.  No.  If you leave an input box blank, no code is printed on that label.

Q. Do I have to print a full sheet of labels at once?
A.  No. You can type just the ones you want to print now. Note that the manufacturer of the labels for the laser printer says it is "inadvisable" to run the same sheet of labels through a laser printer several times because the sheet may curl and the labels may come off.  They offer no such caution about the inkjet labels.

Q. How many characters can each label hold?
A.  100.

Q. Can I change a text label?
A. No.  Once the text is printed, it is what it is.  If you want it to say something different, you'll need to make a new label.

Q. How many text labels can I have?
A. As many as you want.

Q. Do text labels take up storage space on my phone?
A.  No.  The text is encoded in the label; nothing is stored on the phone.

Q. Do I have to stick to alphabetic characters when typing a label?
A.  No. You can use symbols and numbers in addition to upper and lower case alphabetic characters when creating your Digit-Eyes labels.  You can also use non-English characters such as those in the Arabic, Chinese, Greek, Hebrew, Hindi, Hiragana, Kana, Kanji, Korean or Russian character sets.

Q. Wow!  So I can make text labels in languages other than English?
A. You can certainly make them and they will be decoded and displayed correctly on the iPhone screen, however VoiceOver may not be able to read them to you.

According to Apple, VoiceOver, the voicing software on the iPhone, can speak 21 languages including Bahasa Indonesian, Chinese (Cantonese), Chinese (China), Chinese (Taiwan), Dutch, English (US), English (UK), English (Australian), Finnish, French (Canada), French (France), German, Greek, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese (Brazil), Portuguese (Portugal), Romanian, Russian, Slovak, Spanish (Mexico), Spanish (Spain), Swedish, Thai, Turkish.  To change your VO language tap Settings > General > International > Voice Control.

VoiceOver is silent when it finds a character it cannot render, so it will correctly voice Digit-Eyes labels that use the Japanese or Russian character sets but it will not voice Digit-Eyes labels in Arabic,  Hebrew or Hindi even though labels using these character sets will be correctly displayed on the screen.

Thus, if your text labels are to be used by the sighted, you can use any language; if you are making labels for people who are not sighted, you'll need to use only languages that VoiceOver supports.

Click here for more information from Apple on this topic.

Q. How do I know what a text label says?
A.  Scan it before you stick it on anything.  VoiceOver will read it to you.

Q.  What if I decide to get rid of my phone? Are the text labels readable with anything else?
A.  Yes. Any QR code reader can read the text labels. Only Digit-Eyes and Digit-Eyes Lite voice them to you.

Q.  Can other people read my text labels?
A.  Yes, if they have a QR code reader such as Digit-Eyes or Digit-Eyes Lite.


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