RNIB PenFriend - audio labeller
This is a gadget for the blind and partially sighted designed to help label items around the home.
* What's in the box? *
- Penfriend audio labeller - Measurements are Width:2.5cm Length:15.5cm and weight is: 0.05Kg
- Two AAA batteries
- USB cable
- Neck lanyard
- Comes with 127 labels - (91 small circles, 36 large squares)
- the box itself is made of strong plastic and is designed to allow you to store the Penfriend in
The way it works is that the Penfriend itself is like a very large chunky pen. It also reminds me of a microphone as it flares out at the top where there is an in-built speaker. It comes with some sticky labels that you use with it to record audio labels using your voice.
You have to depress and hold down the record button and then place the nib part of the device over a label, when you hear a ding sound, you can record any message you want. I use it to label my medication for example I might say 'Eye drops, take 2 times a day'. To stop recording you just stop depressing the record button.
When you move the nib over the label again, it will automatically speak the recording I just made. I can then stick this label on the eye drop box or wherever else I want to use it.
I'm not sure if it uses RFID tags or something like that. I know it doesn't use barcodes. If you record a label, then you can tear it into smaller pieces and use it on multiple items. I can record 'Baked Beans' and then tear it into half and stick it onto two cans of beans. When I move the Pen friend over either lable, it will say 'Baked Beans'.
I've not had it long so I've just used it to label medication bottles but it can be used to label for example, tins of canned food which normally can feel the same, music CDs, your movie collection and paperwork like letters. If you're not happy with a label you've recorded, then you can record over it by repeating the above procedure again.
I've heard people being able to reuse the labels by sticking them onto magnetic toy fridge magnets and then using them to label baked beans or sticking cellotape over them and sticking them onto pieces of cardboard.
The Penfriend comes with 127 labels but you can buy more from the RNIB shop on their site. They have 8 packs in total as of this review which equals about 3000 labels altogether.
It comes with printed instructions but there are labels on the cardboard packaging itself, which will speak the instructions as you move the Penfriend over them, for example, one of the labels will explain what all the buttons on it do while another one will explain how to record. I liked this as I could practice using it by myself and also find out at the same time about all its features.
You can download the instructions as a Word document from the RNIB website, and they also have put up a demonstration on YouTube.
It comes with 1 GB of memory which can store upto 70 hours of recordings. You can make each label as long or short as you want it to be. The Penfriend acts like a normal flash drive when you plug it into your computer so you can backup the labels you've recorded in case the Pen Friend gets damaged. I don't think it is waterproof. I would have liked to have kept it in the kitchen full time if it had been.
It can also double as a MP3 player (it has a headphone socket), although it is not something I would like to carry outside with me. It is quite large and not all that good looking. It is too big to fit into my pockets. I tried copying a MP3 song onto it to see how it performed. I don't think you can fast forward or rewind through a track. The sound quality from the in-built speaker is good all things considered. I didn't buy it to play MP3's on and I don't plan on using this feature on a regular basis.
I've had this now for about 3 months and so far I've not had to replace the batteries. I don't have it on all the time so I think they should last me a while yet. It has a power saving mode in that it will shut down after 3 minutes if you don't use it.
* Price and availability *
The best place to buy this from would be directly from the RNIB. They are the one's that make this. They are a charity for blind and partially sighted people. The link to their online shop is:
The product code for this is: DL76. Type it into the search box that is on the site, and it will bring it up. You can purchase via phone or post if you wish. Their phone number is: 0303 123 9999.
The price for this is £71.99 inc VAT and £59.99 excluding VAT.
If you are blind or partially sighted then you won't have to pay VAT. Some people may find the price expensive, but I didn't mind about the price as I have found it very useful, as it means I can be more independent and not keep having to ask other people to come over and find things for me. I've not had it long so I'm still practicing but even so I find it very handy to have around. I have to make sure that I hold the nib exactly level with the label or sometimes it won't play back the associated voice message.
If you require extra labels, then the product codes for the 8 packs are DL77 to DL82 and DL88 to DL89).
* Recommendation *
I can recommend this to anyone who has a problem with their eyesight and needs a simple way of labelling items around the home. It will help you be more organised and rely less on others. I have a gadget that can make Braille labels but that takes longer to write out the labels and sometimes there doesn't always be enough space to stick Braille labels onto small items like eye drop boxes. Also, with Braille labellers, you can't reuse the labels whereas with this you can and I know that a lot of elderly people don't know Braille plus generally, Braille use is declining in everyday use.
I would have liked it if it had been waterproof so I wouldn't have to worry about it getting liquid damage, but that is a minor niggle.
If you have any more questions feel free to get in contact.
RNIB / Type: Audio Label Maker