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Digit-Eyes: Identify and Organize Your World

Step 2: Learn to Scan a UPC Code
What is a UPC code?  The UPC (Universal Product Codes), EAN (European Article Number), JPN (Japanese Product Number) and APN (Australian Product Number) codes are printed on product packaging by manufacturers to identify the item to point-of-sale systems. The Digit-Eyes application ('app') on your phone can read many of these codes. When it finds such a code, the Digit-Eyes app will look the code up on our host computer and tell you what the item is.

What is involved in this training section? The purpose of this section is to acquaint you with the process of scanning a UPC code and to let you practice scanning until the process comes easily. You will need to have a phone or Internet connection for this process to work.

Generally, you will be scanning a labeled container to find the code for the contents of the container. 

In this exercise, you'll start by using the printer attached to your computer to print a worksheet that has a sample UPC code on it in a known location. You will then practice scanning the worksheet to learn how to get the phone to 'capture' the bar code image. After the code is captured, Digit-Eyes will look up the bar code and tell you what the title of the item is. You should repeat this exercise until you are able to scan the sample UPC code dependably on the worksheet.   When you've become comfortable with the process, you'll start scanning the codes on manufactured goods.

Let's print and scan the worksheet!  Click here to open a new window which has a worksheet in it that contains a sample UPC code. 

Using the printer attached to your computer, print the worksheet on a plain piece of paper.  Place the worksheet on a flat surface in reasonably good light. Ordinary indoor light is fine; Digit-Eyes will advise you if the light is too dim to get a good scan.

Hint: The iPhone is not a laser scanner. The typical rapid back-and-forth sideways motion used in laser scanning confuses the autofocus camera on the phone. When scanning with the phone, you'll use a slow vertical motion in which you pull away from the item you are scanning. For more tips on scanning, click here.

Start the Digit-Eyes application on your phone and tap the 'Scan' button on the screen to start the scanning operation.  You need to start with the camera of the phone close to the location on the worksheet where the code is located and then move the camera away using a slow, floating motion. This motion will trigger the autofocus mechanism in the camera and capture the image of the UPC code. The code you are scanning does not need to be straight to the camera; Digit-Eyes can read codes in any orientation.

On the iPhone 3GS, the typical scan distance for a UPC code is between 3 and 6 inches / 8 and 15 cm. The iPhone 4 has a better camera and, the range increases to between 3 and 12 inches / 8 and 30 cm. Start by holding the phone 3 in. / 8 cm. above the paper you've printed and start the scan.  You will hear a beep when the scan starts, a repetitive clicking noise while the scan is occurring and another solid beep when Digit-Eyes recognizes the UPC code.  If you do not get scan results immediately, slowly move your phone a little further away until you get to the maximum range. If you don't get a capture on your first effort, move the phone slowly closer to the paper. You may need to repeat this process a few times until you get the second tone.

After you hear the second tone, the Digit-Eyes app on your phone will send the UPC code to the host computer, get an answer about what the item is and will announce the title of the item to you.

Yum!  Where's the ice cream?

If you would like to know more about the item, you'll find a link on the bottom of the screen titled 'Google search'. Click this to use Google to search for more information on the item you've just scanned.

You should repeat this exercise until you are able to capture the code routinely. When you are comfortable with this process, you are ready to scan products with UPC codes and you'll probably want to try a few! Had enough fun? Then, please proceed to the next section to practice creating and reading a Digit-Eyes text label.  Click here to learn how to scan Digit-Eyes text labels.


Did this section answer your questions?  If not, please click here to contact us.

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