When i saw Google had released a new assistive tool, i was reminded of a meeting i had just under two years ago. The CEO of a large assistive technology company wanted to meet. I found this surprising as it was well known that i had progressive ideas on where assistive technology should be going. What would someone from the old guard want? Perhaps they were ready to change?
We met in a cafe on Judd street a few doors down from the RNIB headquarters. Quickly the CEO began to pitch to me their exciting new product. I imagine from the expression on my face they quickly deduced i was not quite sold. The product would cost around the same as an iPhone, increase access to information – but only the information on their system and apparently open up new ways for users to experience information.
I could not get over the capital cost. The intention was to sell a product at an equivelant price of an iPhone but with less functionality. THey intended to develop their own software that would run on a platform they had to licence, develop and partner with someone to make the hardware, deliver and support both hardware and software and make a great user experience. From a business and end user experience this made no sense to me. The only reason the product would cost so much was due to the direction they had chosen.
I countered with an alternative business model, that would reduce capital expense, ensure no hardware costs, leaving only the software. This would not only reduce their costs, but the cost to the customer and be delivered far quicker. I also suggested a mild pivot that would expand their potential markets and demographics. Essentially, i gave them a plan to make more money while delivering the product at a lower cost to the end user. Win, win.
I mentioned it would be vital to move in this direction as mainstream technology companies would be stepping on their toes before they knew it. This it appeared would be the final straw. I was told i was wrong and greatly misunderstood the capabilities of the blind and visually impaired community. It is worth mentioning i am blind they were sighted…
I realised at this point i had been brought here to be told my ideas and philosophy to making the world more inclusive were wrong. I quickly re-iterated my points that mainstream will be addressing assistive needs and please think about changing direction. But no, i was wrong. They boldly stated that mainstream companies would never address the needs of the disabled community. There would always be a market for their products. I felt this greatly misunderstood a few core issues. Namely, that the way information is distributed will change, as will the communities technological ability. If these issues were not addressed they would find themselves in a very difficult situation.
So today i present to you yet another step forward from a large technology company. Ensuring your systems are inclusive is the direction the industry is moving in, i don’t know why some companies still fail to see it. It must be something about Judd Street it is where progress goes to die.
2 thoughts on “Judd street: Where Progress Goes To Die”
Hi Simon. Great article. I’ve recently came across a company selling SIM cards to deaf community, that would improve the quality of calls, by transposing the frequency ranges to they could better hear.
There starting point was that the mobile networks restrict the frequencies transmitted, and their SIM cards would get round this issue, by transposing the frequencies. There was a lot of sales hype, and the SIM only call plans where very expensive, with very low data and call allowances. Most deaf and hearing impaired already have this built into their NHS provided hearing aides. I didn’t know there was that much computing power on a SIM card!
As you say mainstream companies are doing a lot around assistive technology, in particular subtitles for the deaf and hearing impaired community, with Microsoft trialling live captioning on Skype for example. These all need a lot of compute resource, which the large companies have.
Amazing how many assistive technology companies try to replicate something that exists and charge a huge premium. To be clear i think there is space for assistive technology companies just not with their old overpriced business models. They need to change and fast.Google is introducing live transcription OS wide on android which, sounds very compelling. Not being able to see or part of the deaf community no idea how well it functions though.
As we move forward as you say large technology companies will develop all the assistive technology that relies on high compute. Can only be a good thing!
I am penning a post at the minute around that topic