The biggest names in technology say a conversational internet is possible within 5 years.
On December 1st RLSB hosted an informal working session which brought together leading names in global technology, academia, commercial businesses, charities and visually impaired people to discuss the possibility of the “Conversational Internet”.
What is the Conversational Internet?
The Conversational Internet is today still a vision. The vision is that people who cannot easily use a screen, a keyboard or a mouse have the same browsing experience as sighted, able bodied people. This would be possible by enabling “two-way conversations” between the internet and the user, powered by advanced artificial intelligence that depended only on the spoken word. Find out more about where our campaign started here or watch our video below.
The video featuring RLSB beneficiary Amin Abdullah, shows the issues faced by blind web users today and an early view of how the conversational internet could change the lives of millions. It might sound like Star Trek, but the global technology brands represented at the event were convinced the Conversational Internet is possible, in a basic form, within 5 years.
Who was there and what happened?
Attendees included academics from Brighton and Queen Mary Universities, the Post Office, Ability Net, Nomura Bank, RBS, RNIB, Vision Charity, Google, ROK Global, IBM, Cisco, Samsung and RLSB. Many of the attendees were visually impaired and offered unique insights into both the problem and the potential solution. After an introduction to the concept by RLSB the majority of the 90 minute session was given over to a round table discussion on the challenges and opportunities relating to realising the Conversational Internet, which are summarised here:
- To develop a user-centred yet technical definition of the Conversation Internet.
- To secure a team and sufficient project resources to develop, test and rollout a scalable solution.
- To achieve sufficient initial take-up and long-run coverage of the internet, so that users enjoy a genuinely inclusive and fulfilling experience.
- To build on the huge investments and knowledge made to date in voice control technology, much of which is represented within the group.
- To develop a means of experiencing the modern world that is not limited by being unable to use a screen, a keyboard or a mouse, available to all.
Specifically, to improve the lives of >600m people globally who are visually impaired, dyslexic, are amputees or who have life limiting conditions such as Parkinsons disease.
- To empower people who are often overlooked by society through placing them at the centre of cutting edge technological research and development.
- To use RLSB’s website as a prototype for the conversational internet demonstrating to the wider community what is possible.
Have a look at a video of the event here:
There was a palpable sense of optimism and enthusiasm in the room. A straw poll taken at the close of the event asked the question: A conversational internet – dream or possibility within 5 years? The room overwhelmingly supported the statement – yet identified significant technical, commercial and organisational challenges that would have to be overcome to make it a reality.
Dale Lane, from IBM’s Watson project and Jon Edge from Hutchison Whampoa company WHAM agreed they wouldn’t be interested “if it wasn’t a huge challenge”. Another attendee commented “I’m really fired up. We can do this!”
What’s happening next?
The ball has officially started rolling and everyone’s invited to follow the story. The aim is to create a working group to tackle the challenges and go after the opportunities collaboratively. RLSB is following up with attendees individually and a next meeting is planned for late January.
Join the conversation
RLSB aims to work with people that do not see limits, whether sighted or not. If you or your organisation would like to be involved, or would like to pledge resources to assist this massively ambitious and important project, please email RLSB at firstname.lastname@example.org to get involved.