For people with low vision, daily tasks most people take for granted can seem insurmountable. That’s why a ground-breaking dialogue software platform developed by RealThing Ai, with support from the Entrepreneurs’ Programme Accelerating Commercialisation service, makes it a potential life-changer. At the heart of the technology start-up’s software platform is an intelligent dialogue engine that can be adapted to a wide variety of applications, enabling third parties to make their product and service offerings more inclusive.
Nick Howden, Chief Executive Officer of Australian-based RealThing Ai, says the goal has been to develop an platform capable of “human conversation where it can understand your goals and help you to achieve them.”
“The software platform has the ability to gather information in real-time, and achieve interaction in a very human, flowing conversational way,” he says.
Bridging the inclusivity gap
One key application is to assist people with visual impairment – approximately 2.3% of the population in Western countries. RealThing Ai’s platform can generate conversational dialogue that guides users through everyday tasks such as cooking, shopping, and finding information and entertainment.
The flagship project, RealSAM Pocket, uses a modified Samsung smartphone to provide a range of intuitive services including voice-based text messaging, phone calls, visual assistants and navigation tools. For example, people with low vision can utilise a guided navigation function to walk independently while receiving real-time prompts to point them in the right direction.
Recognising the ground-breaking nature of RealThing Ai’s world-first technology, The Royal National Institute for Blind People (RNIB) commissioned the company’s first product, which went on sale in the UK in 2018. The software created by RealThing Ai has already been life-changing for many of its users, Howden says. “It’s amazingly fulfilling to receive all the stories and letters we get from people with low vision and their families about how the assisted living capability of our products have made a valuable impact.”
Vision to assist: the Entrepreneurs’ Programme Accelerating Commercialisation service
Integral to its success was support from the Entrepreneurs’ Programme Accelerating Commercialisation service, which provided a grant of $1 million and critical advice and expertise to help commercialise Real Thing Ai. This support was vital to the expansion of RealThing Ai’s workforce and helped position the firm as an attractive investment opportunity.
“With the Australian Government backing you, it gives investors the peace of mind to say, ‘OK this is obviously good tech, things are going in the right direction’,” Howden says.
Recognising the economic and social value of this technology at a time when other investment channels were unable to, the program helped RealThing Ai to commercialise their innovation and develop a completely new version of the RealSAM product.
Further empowered by the advice and expertise of i4 Connect Facilitator, Simone Stuckey, RealThing Ai was able to fast-track its product development and firm up its business case to support its expansion into a new product offering and target market.
Howden says the team of i4 Connect facilitators, led by Stuckey, helped his team to gain insights into aspects of the business they may not have otherwise achieved, and credits the Entrepreneurs’ Programme Accelerating Commercialisation service with the vision and skills to guide his fledgling firm to the commercialisation stage.
Intelligent dialogue moves out from behind the Cloud
The completely new version of the RealSAM product that was developed with the support of the program will utilise the latest in smartphone technology to run the intelligent dialogue engine on the device itself, rather than in the Cloud, creating the potential for broader applications beyond being an assisted living device.
An Organisational Portal developed by RealThing Ai will allow large customers to manage their clients’ devices remotely. This is particularly relevant given the increased popularity of hybrid working models, and of AI assistance in a customer service setting.
This product will help organisations with 50,000 or more clients to scale up their customer support capacity, offering an improved customer experience by allowing for more interactivity without the need for an uninterrupted network connection.
Gaining an international foothold
RealThing Ai was approached by the US Government through the US Library of Congress (LOC) as its technology is seen as a “best of breed solution for voice tech”.
Its National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled (NLS) services hundreds of thousands of Americans living with sight loss and the Library has now awarded multiple contracts to RealThing Ai’s new US office.
This is a key indication of the product’s significant income potential, and the opportunity to position Australia as a world leader in this field. With successful footholds achieved in both the UK and US markets, RealThing Ai is well positioned to generate valuable import income into Australia.
Looking towards an inclusive future
With such multifaceted applications for RealThing Ai’s software, the future looks exciting, with the potential to create more accessibility for people with low vision via a wide range of uses.
The company hopes leading brands will integrate its interactive dialogue software into a range of smart interfaces beyond handheld devices.
Imagine a world where fridges, washing machines, interactive reading platforms or any other products could offer a conversational interaction, thereby helping to remove the frustration of performing everyday tasks for people with low vision.