#CSUNATC19 Audio: A Transformative Experience For Kiosk Access With AudioEye
Self service options have been gaining momentum beyond the gas pump and the grocery lines. McDonald s, and others in the Food Service industry, have been exploring Cashierless payment alternatives such as those involving the use of Kiosks for general user transactions. AudioEye s Dan Sullivan, Vice President of Sales, and Mark Maker, CTO, discuss with Joe some of the challenges that can come with moving to these kinds of payment platforms and how AudioEye is leveraging their existing technology to meet those challenges. To learn more about where the company is going in the future, or to inquire about their web access solutions, visit the AudioEye website
Listen to the interview (19 minutes approximately)
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Now, here’s Joe Steincamp.
JOE STEINCAMP: Welcome back to coverage from Anaheim. It is Joe Steincamp here, and I’m over at the AudioEye booth with Dan and Mark.
Dan, you know, you caught me as we were walking through, and I asked you where Jeff was. I feel weird. This is, like, the first year I’ve not interviewed Jeff from the company. But Jeff is alive and well, I understand?
DAN SULLIVAN: He’s holding the fort down while we’re all out here in Anaheim at CSUN this week.
JS: He – basically, he wanted San Diego, not LA. That’s what I’m getting; right?
DS: Well, somebody had to keep the lights on, so –
JS: Well, there you go. We couldn’t entice him with —
DS: — he’s keeping it all going.
JS: Couldn’t entice him with Disney World – or Disney Land; right? There we go.
DS: Disney Land; right?
JS: There you go. Don’t want to mix those two up. Not until Star Wars, you know comes open.
Gentlemen, you know, we’ve been talking a lot in the past about how things have worked on the web, but you have been really interested in kiosk and accessibility of those kinds of devices. Let’s just have a little dialogue about that, if you don’t mind.
DS: Yeah. Sure. And I think CSUN in 2019 is probably the perfect time to talk about this because it’s – in a number of these break outs and some of the legal summits that have been happening, it very clearly seems like the new frontier, or the next frontier, insofar as digital accessibility, will be in this growing and expanding world of self-service devices and kiosks, most notably in a lot of the fast food entities out there now –
DS: — are really looking, with the advent of the increase of the minimum wage, trying to reduce labor costs and going to self-service interfaces. And, you know, frankly speaking, just like the web, where it is — there’s this hypersonic growth of complexity and change and technology being integrated, the topic space is really come a long way from some of those really basic simple kiosks 20 years ago, and touchscreen devices and things of that nature are all the rage now.
And you know, interesting enough, we kind of got dragged to this party a few years ago. We were actually approached by one of the larger, sort of, fast food restaurant chains out there that was giving some thought and some idea to deploying these kiosks and started asking about accessibility. And one of the things that we learned quite quickly is the traditional thought by the kiosk space about accessibility, or ADA relative to kiosks, was the height of the screen so an individual in a wheelchair could actually physically access the screen.
DS: And when we started to ask questions like what do individuals with cognitive learning disabilities or visually impaired, how do those interfaces work for them, they were lost because traditionally, this whole thing began to emerge with ATMs 30 years ago, and the whole idea was put a microphone jack in and put Braille on the keypad, and you’re all set.
JS: And you had the operating system situation. So recently, Arby’s, who now owns Wendy’s, said that they’re going to spend 20 million dollars over the next two years to bring them up to speed because they felt like the POS, the point of sale system, was so old and so, needed that kind of idea. So in some cases, organizations are looking to upgrade the fleet, and it’s a perfect time for that.
DS: Yeah. You know, you bring up a good point. We’ve been looking — a lot of the entities out there that are deploying these, sort of, self-service kiosks. And you actually mentioned Wendy’s, and I have to tell you, Wendy’s is in the midst of a pretty significant deployment right now.
DS: And they actually built and addressed a lot of those kiosks with accessibility in mind. And frankly speaking, you know, if I were to look out there, they’re sort of the gold standard on actually addressing accessibility on the whole, relative to those devices.
The bad news is there’s a lot of entities out there that haven’t really thought about that, and are now coming and – you know, I think one of the things that’s been really interesting is when we were approached, we quickly realized that the work and the infrastructure that we built for helping our customers with their websites –
DS: — actually really uniquely transferred over to kiosk space. And we’ve been dabbling for the last couple of years, and I think we’ve really found a unique fit. And I think we’ve been able to – you know, we’ve been told by a number of the big kiosk players out there, when they look at our solution and what we can do and that type of an interface, that we really are transformative insofar as what we’re going to be able to do to help them with ADA. So really excited about that and – you know, Mark can probably talk a little bit more than I can about some of the technical aspects of it.
I was – you know, you mentioned Jeff, and Jeff is passionate about software and passionate about web infrastructures, and Mark is equally passionate about things like, you know, devices and things of that nature. It’s probably why they get along so well. Like, they could fit together really well. And when I brought this whole concept of kiosks to the table, it got both of them really equally excited because Mark got to play with boxes –
JS: — new toys.
DS: — of steel and new toys.
MARK MAKER: Exactly.
JS: New toys.
DS: And Jeff got to work with the interface and — so I think Mark was –
JS: So Dan was excited about ancillary Markets –
JS: — the rest of the team was like, you’re giving me the opportunity to go play with stuff.
DS: I was excited about solving a big problem in the Marketplace.
JS: Nicely done, my friend. Nicely done.
MM: Nice. It’s spectacular because these devices are really advanced these days. They are computing platforms that typically are used in full-blown operating systems. You know, it’s not as common anymore to have some proprietary OS. Sometimes, they’ll be based on Android or something of that nature. But more often than not, it’s some form of embedded Windows or full-featured OS that has browsing capabilities built into it, and it really just makes a lot of sense, in the next generation of kiosks, not to try and self-contain everything, but rather to have a persistent internet connection so that the content is always up to date on the devices. And being web-based, you can reuse the same assets that you would use in any other area of the business.
So it just makes sense to try and unify all these technologies together with the kiosk, and that makes it a perfect fit for the type of work that we do, given that it is internet connected, it is web-based content, the solutions that AudioEye provides are able to handle any kind of transformation necessary to make it ADA compliant. But it really kind of goes beyond that because we can then begin to innovate and say, well, what would be the best way for a user to engage with a particular screen in the menu?
MM: Maybe for some screens, that’s a swipe gesture. Maybe for some, it’s, you know, more voice activation, or maybe it’s, you know, touching quadrants or corners or — all kinds of different things. And by having these devices that are more advanced, that are internet-connected, we can iterate quickly and, you know, bring to Market new features as they, you know, are ideated by end users. So it’s really exciting.
JS: First of all, I’m glad you didn’t say OS/2 Warp. And I’m also thrilled that you didn’t say Windows CE —
JS: — because that would – those were some early POS –
JS: — that people held onto for a very long time, especially in the retail space.
And with that, does it work hand-in-hand situation – because some companies might be, look. You guys go do this. We don’t want to be a part of it. But some companies are very, very protective of their Market, and it involves a lot with user experience and, UEX and UY and design. So have you found that to be the case, where you’re running into both types of individuals that are passionate about what the experience is in this venue?
MM: Yeah. I mean, I do think that we’ve kind of seen the spectrum from that perspective. Not sure how, you know, in detail I can get with anything else –
JS: Right. Right. No. NDA’s holding. NDA’s holding.
MM: Right. Exactly. But yeah. I mean, you do kind of see some companies that are really more concerned with the, just, compliance aspect, whereas others are really about innovation and trying to provide the best experiences and, you know, we’re – as Dan was pointing out, a large driving force behind this effort is the changes in minimum wage, the need to automate, to be able to stay viable with, you know, the margins in the industry. So it does make sense that you would want to have the most intuitive interface, the easiest process for ordering, you know, and changing and, you know –
JS: Yeah. It’s a new frontier because nobody’s really jumped out ahead.
Dan, you mentioned a moment ago about Wendy’s and stuff. But there isn’t, like, a ubiquitous factor yet or something that a blind individual or somebody with deaf-blindness can go in and have an experience yet or point to a chain where they can have that experience yet?
DS: I mean, this is web accessibility all over again; right? I mean, really, what happened was, you know, as bandwidth expanded and as the complexity of web design, all the things that you could do in a web interface really took off in, you know, in the early 2000’s all the way up until this day, what ended up happening is the technologists got so excited about pushing the envelope forward that, you know, one of the communities it was probably most empowered by the whole advent of the internet was left behind; right? And then, at the end of the day, people would say, well, what about individuals with disabilities? What about accessibility? And everybody would have these blank stares and said, oh, yeah. We forgot; right? So –
JS: The bolt-on mentality. Right.
MM: There you go.
DS: So we’ve made a business of, really, being able to help those entities go back in as noninvasive and as nondisruptive a way as possible, to actually fix those issues, and we see the exact same thing took place in the kiosk space; right?
JS: Yeah. Yeah.
DS: Because in this massive, all hands on deck, push this thing forward, get it out, advance new features, new benefits, oh yeah. We forgot; right? So, you know, at the end of the day, that’s the way the Market’s going to work, and we’ve been able to find that there’s a really good business by being able to come in and, sort of, help people fix the messes that they created by not thinking about this as an issue. They generally are made aware of it by — not the way that they would have wanted to –
DS: But at the end of the day, we feel as though that we can sort of, really – a valuable service in being able to help. And, you know, I think, you know, three or four of these kiosk places have used the same word in explaining our solution when they’ve seen it, in that they say that AudioEye’s approach to this is really elegant. And I think that’s one of those things that’s really made me happy is that it’s not disruptive, it does not change the use or anything in that nature of the interface, but it really enables and empowers a whole differentiated community to interact with those devices. We also see a really long tail to this. I mean, I think the things that you are going to be able to do with kiosks and the way in which, you know, we live on our mobile devices and connectivity and Apple Pay and Google Pay and some of the things that we can do, we can really help these entities elevate the whole concept of usability of these infrastructures, and it’s really exciting. So we’re pretty – we’re really pleased, and I’m just thrilled that, you know, after three years of working on this, I come to CSUN, and people are talking about it.
The U.S. Access Board put together a panel and a group committee that’s working on kiosk accessibility as the topic. So it’s an emerging trend, and we’re happy that we’ve been there for a few years and that the Market’s finally caught up to us.
JS: Okay. So he gave me an opening, so you can blame me; okay – for – because Dan set you up for this. The experience, Mark.
JS: The seamless experience. He said Apple Pay and Google Pay. What were some of the challenges of being able to work with a payment system that’s going to do a handoff to another device?
MM: Well, so, you know, we have some handoff systems in place that allow us to essentially use your mobile device as an input device –
MM: — for these infrastructures. We have not, at this point, made a full payment transaction –
MM: — between the two entities –
JS: Yeah. Yeah.
MM: — and I think that what we’re finding is that in all likelihood, a production implementation is going to be what the NFC built into the kiosk itself.
MM: Just using –
JS: Because you’re asking end users to be –
MM: — the phone directly.
JS: — familiar with two audio sources at one time.
JS: — so –
DS: Yeah. And a clear differentiation I probably didn’t say; right? I talk about the long tail that we see in this; right? So –
DS: We’re trying to make the case where people are coming to us and saying, help us with accessibility. And, you know, I think one of the challenges that we, as a – industry, have always had is, you know, just trying — making the business case for accessibility; right? So we’ve always tried to do that within the digital infrastructures.
Well, when you think about usability and you think of millennials and that they live on their phones and –
JS: Oh, gosh, this.
DS: — those types of things; right? Watches – you know, the things that we’re able to do with accessibility and usability into kiosks, we can actually take that underlying technology and we can extrapolate that to a whole bunch of other places that may not specifically be aligned with accessibility. But it’s really on the foundation that we pull for accessibility within those kiosks, of which payment, voice activation, all of those things are, sort of, the tentacles that we’re excited about. So when we’re in these meetings, we can actually say, well, let’s get the foundation of accessibility built, but I want to give you a preview of some of the things that we might be able to do.
DS: And, you know, when a millennial is in line at a McDonalds at 2 o’clock in the morning and they got to wait forever, they could pull up their mobile device and be able to actually operate the kiosk remotely and be able to facilitate the payment and get out faster. They love that, you know, whether it’s McDonalds or Panera or Wendy’s. So those are the things that we see where not – this is where accessibility has an opportunity to transform the underlying, sort of technology that’s out there. We’re kind of excited about that, so I didn’t want to make that we’ve done that. We see that as a – we see that as –
JS: Yeah. No. I get that, and that’s changing all the time because, you know, you mentioned Google Pay, and that has changed a few times on what we’re going to call it – Android Pay, Google Pay —
JS: — what have you, and those standards change all the time, especially as banking gets used to doing more of that thing outside of what would normally be their own form of payment operation.
DS: Yeah. And, you know, you mentioned Jeff at the top of this call, and you’ve known Jeff and you know the passion he has for this space, and one of the things that we always talk about internally in our meetings at AudioEye is while we’re building 1.0, we’re also white boarding 2.0, and we’re visualizing 3.0; right? And we sometimes have to stop ourselves and say, let’s get the first cake baked fully; right? So we’re on 1.0 mode –
DS: – but we can’t help ourselves. We’re still white boarding, thinking, and extrapolating what 2.0 and 3.0 look like, and we get excited about that, and that’s what motivates us. So payment systems and things of that nature, that’s like, 2.5. So I don’t want to get too far ahead of our skis there, but –
JS: Well, no. And that makes a lot of sense because from Mark’s perspective, he has such a wide range to consider now as far as that experience goes for UEX, user experience, because you’re talking about, in some cases, older phones.
JS: Some things you might have in an iPhone Max that you wouldn’t have in an 8 that would – you wouldn’t have in a 6s.
JS: And so some of those things do kind of boil down to who is my user, what do we support? Because, you know, I went to go buy my big Mac, but I found out that my phone wasn’t necessarily compatible. I mean, these are new things, like you were saying, it is a new Wild West.
MM: Absolutely, it is. And you know, the devices are obviously changing all the time, like you mentioned with the Google Pay standards and names changing and –
MM: What I love about the core of the technology that we are deploying here is that it is really ubiquitous in – from an API perspective such that we really are able to just use standardized web technologies, and once we’ve paired devices, it really doesn’t matter if it’s a web browser on your laptop or it’s your smart phone or it’s some IOT device that we have custom built; right? I mean, it really doesn’t matter at that point, but it’s been boiled down to, you know, just standard, socket-based communication, and we’re able to provide literally any functionality that our engineers or our clients can dream up through that type of protocol.
So yes. There are certainly going to be some challenges when you get into the proprietary areas of, you know, payments and, you know, other sensitive information passing, but as Dan points out; right? This is the groundwork, this is the foundation and the 1.0.
MM: That, you know, really enables us to start having those deeper conversations with the clients to come up with, well, what would be the ideal use case and scenario, and what is our path going to be to get there?
JS: And I think, for some of our listeners who aren’t familiar with this technology, it’s important to note that there’s a heavy aspect of security that’s involved, even with, say, a sandwich chain that maybe familiar with customization, you know, they’re headquarters, they have ID badges that have security codes and they rotate those out. And there’s a lot of corporate security around just, recipes and food, let alone, we even get back to the payment option. So there’s more to this than just flipping a switch or pressing a couple of buttons.
DS: And to that point; right? I mean, one of the other things that we’ve found is, yes. Social service makes a heck of a lot of sense within restaurant, and we’ve seen it an awful lot. But I got to tell you, I mean, whether you go to Home Depot or Wal-Mart, whether you go to a hospital, whether you go to – I mean, the places where these interfaces and these sort of digital interfaces and these kiosk infrastructures is – to Mark’s point – is becoming more and more ubiquitous, and it’s in a lot of different places, and it’s a growing trend. And we just see it as a great opportunity.
We’re going to be at the National Restaurant Association show coming up in Chicago in June. We’re going to have four kiosks on the floor with one of our partners, Howard Industries. We’re going to be able to, sort of, debut and show the world what this aspect of ADA compliance and accessibility within kiosks is, and we’re really excited about it, really thrilled that you gave us a venue to talk about this topic and get communicated to a wider audience that help is coming in that space.
We know the frustration that the community has with these devices. You know, we are not going to suffer by the paralysis of perfection. We’re going to make them better, we’re going to continuously work to get them better, and we’ll get there over a period of time.
JS: And I’m looking forward to the foodie post from the Restaurant Association by Dan, rating some of the great food that he’s going to have an opportunity to see there in Chicago, not that there wasn’t enough great food in Chicago as there was.
DS: There’s plenty of it, and we’ll find it.
JS: Not a problem.
Dan, Mark, thank you for your time. Where can people find this information or keep up with what’s going on?
DS: I think on our blog on audioeye.com and any of the information that we have on audioeye.com. We are rapidly getting ready for this event in June, so we’re preparing a lot of our content around kiosks. So you’ve been kind of let behind the curtain a little bit early here, but we thought that it was important, and CSUN’s a great venue for us to start talking about this.
JS: We always love exclusives. What are you talking about? I’m a content creator, brother. That’s how that works.
Thank you for your time, gentlemen. I really appreciate it.
MM: Have a great CSUN.
DS: Thanks Joe. Great to see you.
MM: Thanks, Joe.
JS: Thank you.
For CSUN 2019 in Anaheim, it’s Joe Steincamp. We got more. Just stay in the feed.
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