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A Dollar Bill Reader That’s Easy on Your Wallet

October 21 2009 | by

The $99 iBill from Orbit Research

If you have trouble seeing whether you’re paying for your lunch with a $20 or a $50 bill, there’s a new banknote identifier on the market. iBill is a banknote identifier from Orbit Research that’s designed for the blind and the visually impaired. The device costs $99, which is less expensive than similar gadgets on the market.

The iBill weighs 1.5 ounces and has a key-fob design so you can carry it in a pocket, purse, clipped to the belt or attached to a keychain or lanyard. It can identify your U.S. dollar bills in less than one second, and claims to have a 99 percent accuracy rate — though I haven’t tried this out.

Depending on your preference, the dollar denomination can be announced by voice, tone or vibration for privacy. The unit identifies all U.S. banknotes in circulation and recognizes them in any orientation. Banknotes in poor physical condition are indicated as unidentifiable and are not misread, and iBill is also upgradeable to recognize new banknote designs like the new $20 bill.

There are a few other bill readers on the market. The knfbReader Mobile from KNFB Reading Technology is a Nokia N82 phone with a camera loaded with character-recognition and text-to-speech software. The phone can snap pictures of any printed material and read it aloud on the spot, including currency. It also reads much more, such as books, emails, restaurant menus receipts or signs, which justifies its $995 price (plus the cost of the phone).

Many blind people use the Note Teller 2 from Brytech, which costs about $300 and is the size of an iPhone. However, these machines have an 80 percent accuracy rate, and require the user to enter the bills properly. Like vending machines, a bill reader will reject bills that are too old or wrinkled. Brytech, a Canadian company, doesn’t have very good customer service support, either.

So far, the iBill is the least expensive and perhaps the smallest — and promises high-level customer service.; the unit is backed by a one-year warranty and has toll-free customer support (888-60-ORBIT). If you’re just looking for an easier way to read your moolah, the iBill may be just the ticket.

Related article: Making Moolah More Accessible

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