A Queensland tech startup has created groundbreaking technology that voice-enables published websites and makes using the web so easy you can do it with your eyes shut.
The technology developed by Alkira Software, based on the Sunshine Coast, combines machine learning and AI to analyse the visible elements of published webpages and translate them into audible text for end users with the free ALKIRA app.
In May, Alkira will debut spectacularly by unveiling a voice-interactive iteration of Facebook for the blind and others who find the standard Facebook presentation confounding and hard to use.
Chief Blind Guy and CCO at ALKIRA, Geoff Munck, blind since birth, says the software delivers the easiest user experience possible on the web.
“All of us know someone who struggles using websites and platforms,” he said.
“It could be an elderly parent, a friend or relative with poor vision, or someone who is just overwhelmed by the complexity of webpages.
“Currently, the web is very vision-centric, and becoming more so. This makes the assumption that everyone has the sight, dexterity, and cognitive capacity of a fighter pilot, but that is not the reality,” he said.
ABS statistics show that in line with OECD averages, around 44% of Australians do not have the necessary literacy levels to cope with the web comfortably. Former Premier and now Alkira Software board member, Campbell Newman, says we need to do better.
“The onrush of the digital transformation of business has amplified the chasm in skills and capabilities in our communities, resulting in digital disability and the alienation of large sectors of the audience of every business and institution,” he said.
“Every year, governments and corporates spend tens of millions of dollars on programs to address the digital divide, but it still grows.”
Developed over six years in Queensland’s Coolum Beach, Alkira Software began as an attempt to solve the frustrations of a blind friend struggling with business software, and it is now on the verge of opening the door to universal user experience.
While Facebook was chosen to show the power of ALKIRA, more important websites including online banking, shopping, government services, and public transport information – services central to participation and inclusion in our digital-centric communities – are being targeted.
Already, ALKIRA has some early adopters, including Brisbane City Council, Noosa Shire Council, and RACQ, with trials underway with ALDI, Vision Australia, QUT, UQ, and the LGAQ.
ALKIRA opens up substantial business opportunities, as digital inclusion is good for business. In Australia alone, the potential market that are set to benefit from ALKIRA include:
- People with low literacy, e.g. Dyslexia – 2.4 million people
- Blind and vision impaired people – 475,000 people
- People from Non-English speaking backgrounds with inadequate English – 820,000 people
- Older Australians – 3.7 million people
“The ability to do something as fundamental as complete transactions puts ALKIRA years ahead of Silicon Valley which has only just discovered retrieval voice services,” says Munck.
“ALKIRA has the power to transform the lives of the blind and others who struggle to read web content.
“It has changed what used to be a slow, frustrating, and demeaning experience for me and others like me into a quick, comfortable, and dignified one.”
The ALKIRA app is free to download from their website, www.alkirasoftware.com. It can be downloaded to desktop and portable devices running Windows and iOS with Android and Mac slated for mid and late 2018, respectively.
The Facebook voice functionality will be available on 1st May, 2018
To find out more about the Alkira Software and the ALKIRA app, visit www.alkirasoftware.com or e-mail [email protected].
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