News Article ————

Driving Inclusive Packaging: Improving Accessibility on Unilever packaging through the newly developed Accessible QR Code

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Published Date 24.07.2023

Zappar and our partners Unilever are delighted to announce that Accessible QR (AQR) has been selected as a finalist for the Tech for Good, UK Business Tech Award 2023! This groundbreaking new accessibility technology has been a long time in the making but is now out in the wild on a number of Unilever products, including Persil capsules in plastic-free packaging. Our amazing partners at Unilever are looking to scale across multiple brands, with plans to incorporate AQR on millions of packs across a number of brands globally.

Accessible QR has been specifically designed to help blind and partially sighted people access information on product packaging. The reality is that it is a daily challenge for the 300+ million people worldwide who are blind or partially sighted to choose products and access information on pack about the product itself. The challenge was to build a solution that is easy to use via a smartphone and super simple for any brand to easily implement at scale. Put simply, we’ve enhanced existing QR codes to make them Accessible QR codes. This technology helps the blind and partially sighted locate products and get all the relevant product information they need either when shopping in-store or when searching the cupboards at home. Importantly, these new AQR codes only require a simple print change to existing QR artwork on packaging, delivering a single code scheme for everyone. 

Accessible QR incorporates a unique D3 ‘dot-dot-dash’ pattern (patent pending) around a traditional QR code. This pattern increases the scanning distance of a standard QR printed at 15mm on pack by 7x to announce the product category, and 4x for detailed information related to the product, giving blind and partially sighted people easy access to all the information available on pack including instructions, ingredients, safety warnings, recycling information, and promotions etc. The information presented is provided in a structured way and uses the device accessibility features such as displaying information in larger text or accessing VoiceOver. 

Accessible QR was developed and launched in a partnership between Zappar & Unilever and in collaboration with research and insight from the Royal National Institute of Blind People who conducted expert assessments and usability research on this new enhancement to the QR code. We have also been working in partnership with Microsoft SeeingAI to integrate AQR into the class-leading SeeingAI app available on iOS. We’re also working with EnvisionAI and Be My Eyes with integrations into their popular apps used by the blind and partially sighted community coming soon. It’s through our key partnerships that we can meaningfully engage the community and also work with brand teams to include messaging in their broader communications strategy to raise awareness. 

Through the use of AQR on packaging we have an opportunity to make product packaging finally available to everyone, everywhere whatever their visual acuity as a basic human right. We’re excited to be working with organisations like Unilever to make this a reality and look forward to other brands and businesses joining this movement to create societal change to improve the lives of hundreds of millions of people around the world.

Key Partners:

Zappar is a pioneering computer vision company focussed on democratising spatial computing and Augmented & Mixed Reality for the world. Zappar helps brands and businesses develop their AR & MR capabilities in the digital age through their creative studio, a proprietary platform and tools, including Zapbox, an affordable mixed reality headset. Through their years of cutting-edge work in computer vision, we have led the way in developing the Accessible QR solution, a brand new and totally novel approach to accessibility for product packaging for the blind and partially sighted community helping to ensure that access to product information is available to everyone, everywhere as a basic human right.

Unilever is one of the world’s leading suppliers of Beauty & Wellbeing, Personal Care, Home Care, Nutrition and Ice Cream products, with sales in over 190 countries and products used by 3.4 billion people every day. Their vision is to be the global leader in sustainable business and to demonstrate how their purpose-led, future-fit business model drives superior performance. They have a long tradition of being a progressive, responsible business. Via their sustainable business strategy, the Unilever Compass, they have set out to deliver superior performance and drive sustainable and responsible growth, while:

  • improving the health of the planet
  • improving people’s health, confidence and wellbeing
  • and contributing to a fairer and more socially inclusive world

The Royal National Institute of Blind People, is the UK’s leading sight loss charity, they offer practical and emotional support to blind and partially sighted people, their families and carers. The RNIB raises awareness of the experiences of blind and partially sighted people and campaigns for change to make our society more accessible for all. Their goal is to change our world so there are no barriers to people with sight loss and we are so grateful for their important contribution to the development of AQR. 

Zappar, Unilever and the RNIB are honoured AQR has been selected as a finalist in the Tech for Good category of the UK Business Tech Awards 2023. This is a huge achievement for Zappar and all those involved in the development and implementation of AQR. Accessible QR truly is ‘Tech for Good’ and is a very real opportunity for brands to make everyday quality-of-life improvements for so many people through a simple on pack artwork change. We have been so lucky to find such dedicated partners in Unilever and the RNIB, everyone involved at every step has shared the clear goal to improve on pack accessibility and ensure equitable access to product information. Winning this award would be a huge leap towards our goal and help us spread the word about AQR.

Caspar Thykier, CEO of Zappar, AQR is bigger than the partners involved, we see this as a first step in helping make packaging more accessible for everyone, everywhere. Access to information on packaging should not be down to your visual acuity. It should be a basic human right for everyone. We have the technology to solve the daily challenge faced by 100s of millions of blind and partially sighted people that robs them of their independence and creates daily frustrations. With Accessible QR codes we can solve this problem. This is a truly scalable and global initiative. Winning the Tech for Good – UK Business Tech Award would help raise the profile of this technology and ensure even more retailers, product manufacturers and packagers get involved and implement Accessible QR tech on their products and in their stores to fundamentally change and improve how we approach product packaging and help make it truly inclusive for everyone.”

Nadine Slyper, Laundry Marketing Director at Unilever: “We’re extremely proud to have launched these new enhanced QR codes on Persil as we see this as the first step in helping make packaging accessible for everyone. We’re pleased to be exploring Accessible QR codes as a business and hope to see other companies and accessibility apps join in this conversation. This is a global initiative, and we hope this will help create a more inclusive experience for all of our shoppers as we grow and learn in this space. For us, this is bigger than Unilever, we see this as a first step in helping make packaging more accessible for everyone.”

Twitter | Zap Vision | RNIB

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